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Oral Arguments Schedule

Courts in the Community

No. SCWC-14-0001135, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 10 a.m.

In the Matter of BCI COCA-COLA BOTTLING COMPANY OF LOS ANGELES, INC., Respondent/Respondent-Appellant-Appellee/Cross-Apppellee, vs. SCOTT T. MURAKAMI, in his official capacity as the Director, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, State of Hawaiʻi; DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, STATE OF HAWAIʻI, Respondents/Appellees-Appellees/Cross-Appellants, and TAMMY L. JOSUE, Petitioner/Complainant-Appellee-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Kauaʻi Community College
Performing Arts Center
3-1901 Kaumualiʻi Hwy
Līhuʻe, HI 96766
   
Attorney for Petitioner Josue: 

Ronald T. Fujiwara

Attorneys for Respondents Murakami and DLIR:

Frances Lum, Li-Ann Yamashiro, and Adam S. Rosenberg, Deputy Attorneys General

Attorneys for Respondent BCI Coca-Cola: 

Anna Elento-Sneed and Trisha Gibo of ES&A, Inc.

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 01/31/19.

COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Pollack, and Wilson, JJ.

Brief Description:

Tammy Josue was employed at Coca-Cola when, in May 2009, she suffered a stress injury that resulted from her employment.  Josue was unable to work, and Coca-Cola placed her on a twelve-month leave of absence in accordance with its disability leave policy.  On April 15, 2010, Coca-Cola hired an employee to permanently fill Josue’s position.  Josue was authorized to return to work by her doctor on September 1, 2010, with no restrictions.  Upon her return, Josue was informed that her position had been filled.  Coca-Cola later offered Josue other positions that Josue declined, which she explained either offered lower pay or required minimum qualifications that she did not possess.  Josue was told that if she did not find a new position with the company within twelve weeks, she would be terminated.

Two weeks later, Josue filed a complaint with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (the Department).  In her complaint, Josue argued that Coca-Cola discriminated against her on September 1, 2010, when the company did not return her to her position after she was cleared to return to work.  Josue alleged that Coca-Cola discriminated against her “solely because” she suffered a work injury, which violated Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 378-32(a)(2) (2015).

After a hearing, the hearing officer issued a recommended decision and concluded that Coca-Cola’s failure to return Josue to the former position constituted discrimination against her solely because of her work injury, which violated HRS § 378-32(a)(2).  Upon review, the Director of the Department adopted the recommended decision.

  Coca-Cola appealed the Director’s decision to the Circuit Court of the First Circuit (circuit court).  The circuit court reversed the Director’s decision and held that the company’s actions did not violate HRS § 378-32(a)(2). 

Josue appealed the decision to the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA).  The ICA affirmed the circuit court’s decision and held that Coca-Cola did not discriminate against Josue “solely because” of her injury.  The ICA found that the company filled the position because it determined that Josue’s absence was creating a business hardship and that it refused to reinstate her as the position had been filled.  The ICA also stated that there was no finding by the hearing officer that indicated Coca-Cola’s business hardship was pretextual.  Therefore, the ICA concluded that Coca-Cola did not violate HRS § 378-32(a)(2).

In her application for a writ of certiorari, Josue argues that Coca-Cola violated the statute because but for her injury, there would have been no need to fill the position.  Josue also contends that Coca-Cola was required to either leave the position vacant or hire a temporary employee until she was able to return.  The ICA therefore erred, Josue asserts, when it concluded that Coca-Cola did not discriminate against her “solely because” of her injury.  Coca-Cola responds that the ICA’s opinion should be affirmed.

Supreme
Court

No. SCWC-17-0000427, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, 8:45 a.m.

STATE OF HAWAI I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. JAMES THOMPSON, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali iolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Attorney for petitioner:

Jon N. Ikenaga, Deputy Public Defender

Attorney for appellee:

Loren J. Thomas, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, filed 12/28/18.

NOTE: Order assigning Circuit Court Judge R. Mark Browning in place Recktenwald, C.J., recused, filed 01/03/19.

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 01/31/19.

COURT: Nakayama, Acting C.J., McKenna, Pollack, and Wilson, JJ., and Circuit Court Judge Browning, in place of Recktenwald, C.J., recused.

Brief Description:

Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant James Thompson (“Thompson”) was convicted of seven counts of sexual assault in the first degree, two counts of attempted sexual assault in the first degree, eight counts of sexual assault in the third degree, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of sexual assault in the fourth degree. He was sentenced to concurrent extended sentences of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole as to nine counts, ten years’ imprisonment as to eight counts, twenty years’ imprisonment as to two counts, and one year imprisonment as to one count (“2001 Sentence”). Thompson’s sentence was later vacated by the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. In 2017, Thompson was resentenced to concurrent and consecutive terms of imprisonment that totaled sixty-one years (“2017 Sentence”).

The issues before this court are threefold: (1) whether the 2017 Sentence violates the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000); (2) whether the 2017 Sentence is “more severe” than the 2001 Sentence in violation of HRS § 706-609 and Thompson’s constitutional due process rights; and (3) whether the circuit court was precluded from granting the motion for consecutive terms under the law-of-the-case doctrine.

Supreme
Court

No. SCAP-16-0000830, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, 10 a.m.

STATE OF HAWAII, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. JOSEPH PITTS, Defendant-Appellant.

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali iolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Attorney for Appellant:

Walter R. Schoettle

Attorney for Appellee:

Sonja P. McCullen, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

NOTE: Order granting Application for Transfer, filed 08/10/18.

COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Pollack, and Wilson, JJ.

Brief Description:

Following a jury trial, Joseph Pitts was convicted of attempted murder in the second degree in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit and sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Pitts appealed from the conviction, and this case was transferred to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Pitts argues on appeal that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct. Pitts contended in the motion that during their deliberations jurors had received scissors and gloves to remove a pair of pants–recovered from Pitts after the incident–from a sealed plastic bag container. Testimony by a juror during the motion hearing disclosed that the pants were turned inside out and that several jurors examined three small spots of a substance on the inside of the pants of which the parties were unaware. Pitts maintains that the jury’s consideration of this previously undiscovered substance violated his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury, thus requiring a new trial.

Pitts also contends that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for a new trial based on multiple instances of prosecutorial misconduct, including that the prosecutor misrepresented the testimony of its witnesses, improperly commented on Pitts’ right to be present at his trial, elicited inadmissible testimony of an alleged motive by Pitts to commit the offense, and expressed a personal opinion about the credibility of the State’s witnesses and Pitts’ guilt.

In addition, Pitts argues that the circuit court erred when it denied his pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment because the State failed to present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury that the complaining witness did not initially identify Pitts as his attacker. Pitts further contends that he was denied the right to a jury of his peers because African-Americans were systematically excluded from the jury lists and the State dismissed a prospective juror who expressed concern about the lack of African-Americans in the jury venire.

The State counters that there was no juror misconduct because the pants that the jurors examined were properly admitted into evidence without limitations, thereby allowing such use by the jury during deliberations. Alternatively, the State contends, even if misconduct by the jurors occurred, it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt in light of the evidence presented at trial. The State also argues that the prosecutor did not commit misconduct and therefore the circuit court did not err in denying Pitts’ motion for a new trial. The State maintains that the circuit court did not err in denying the motion to dismiss the indictment because the evidence that Pitts argues should have been presented to the grand jury did not negate Pitts’ guilt and was not clearly exculpatory. Additionally, the State contends that Pitts fails to show that he was denied the right to a jury of his peers and that Pitts failed to object to the dismissal of the prospective juror in order to preserve the issue for appellate review.

Supreme
Court

No. SCWC-17-0000543, Thursday, May 16, 2019, 8:45 a.m.

STATE OF HAWAI I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. ADRIAN-JOHN C. BRINGAS, also known as ADRIANJOHN BRINGAS, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.
The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali iolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Attorney for Petitioner:

Phyllis J. Hironaka, Deputy Public Defender

Attorney for Respondent:

Sonja P. McCullen, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 02/20/19.

COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Pollack, and Wilson, JJ.

Brief Description:

Adrian-John C. Bringas was charged in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit with one count of Murder in the Second Degree and one count of Assault in the Second Degree. The State alleged that, during a series of altercations, Bringas stabbed a minor in the chest, resulting in the minor’s death, and stabbed the minor’s older brother in the leg. At trial, Bringas did not dispute the stabbings, but argued that he was not guilty because he had acted in self-defense.

The jury was instructed about the elements of the two charged offenses, the lesser-included offenses of each offense, and possible defenses. It was instructed that Assault in the Third Degree is a lesser-included offense of Murder in the Second Degree, and that mutual consent is a defense to Assault in the Third Degree. The jury was provided with a verdict form for each count, and both verdict forms included the same special interrogatory regarding mutual consent as a defense to Assault in the Third Degree. The jury was instructed that it was to answer this special interrogatory if and only if it found the defendant not guilty of the greater-included offenses, but guilty of Assault in the Third Degree.

On the verdict form for the first count, the jury indicated that it found Bringas guilty of Murder in the Second Degree, and also answered the special interrogatory, indicating that the prosecution had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the fight was not entered into by mutual consent. When the verdict was read out in court, the court clerk read only the guilty verdict, and not the answer to the special interrogatory.  After the jury was excused, Bringas moved for a new trial on the basis of the jury improperly answering the special interrogatory and the answer to the special interrogatory not being read out in court. The circuit court denied the motion and convicted Bringas of Murder in the Second Degree.

Bringas appealed to the Intermediate Court of Appeals, which affirmed his conviction, holding that the answer to the special interrogatory did not create an inconsistent verdict, but was merely surplusage that the circuit court was permitted to disregard.  Bringas filed an application for a writ of certiorari, arguing that the ICA erred in “(1) affirming the circuit court’s failure to resolve the jury’s inconsistent verdicts prior to having them read in open court; (2) concluding the circuit court did not err in choosing which part of the verdict forms to read and which to omit; and (3) holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Bringas’ motion for a new trial.”  The application was granted.

Supreme
Court

No. SCAP-18-0000432, Thursday, May 16, 2019, 10 a.m.

CLARENCE CHING and MARY MAXINE KAHAULELIO, Plaintiffs-Appellees, vs. SUZANNE CASE, in her official capacity as Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources and State Preservation Officer, BOARD OF OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES, and DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES, Defendants-Appellants.

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali iolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Attorneys for Appellants:

Clyde J. Wadsworth and Ewan C. Rayner, Deputy Solicitor General; William J. Wynhoff and Daniel A. Morris, Deputy Attorneys General

Attorneys for Appellees:

David Kimo Frankel and Summer L.H. Sylva

NOTE: Order granting Application for Transfer, filed 12/20/18.

COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Pollack, and Wilson, JJ.

Brief Description:

In 1964, the Hawai i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) leased a 22,900-acre tract of ceded land on the island of Hawai i, known as the P hakuloa Training Area (PTA), to the United States for military purposes for a term of 65 years. The lease requires the United States to “remove and deactivate all live or blank ammunition upon completion of a training exercise or prior to entry” of the public and to take “reasonable action during its use of the premises” to prevent unnecessary damage to natural resources and remove or bury “trash, garbage, and other waste materials” resulting from the United States’ use of the land.

Clarence Ching and Mary Maxine Kahaulelio (collectively “the Plaintiffs”), filed suit against the DLNR, the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR), and the Chairperson of the BLNR (collectively “the Defendants”) alleging that they breached their constitutional duties, as trustees of the State’s ceded lands, to protect and maintain the public trust land by failing to take “concrete steps to investigate, monitor or ensure compliance” with the lease. The Plaintiffs requested a declaratory judgment that the Defendants breached their trust duties, an order to require the Defendants to fulfill these duties, and an injunction to bar the Defendants from negotiating an extension or renewal of the lease until the Defendants ensure that the terms of the existing lease have been fulfilled.

In response, the Defendants argued that (1) the case should be dismissed because the United States was a necessary and indispensable party, (2) there was not an actual controversy as required by the declaratory judgment statute, (3) the case involved a non-justiciable political question, and (4) they did not breach their trust duties.

Following trial, the Circuit Court for the First Circuit determined that the Defendants breached their trust duties by failing to inspect the condition of the leased land with sufficient frequency to ensure that the terms of the lease were being followed. The court concluded that the Defendants would further breach their trust duties if the lease was renewed without first determining that the terms of the existing lease have been complied with. Additionally, the court ordered the Defendants to develop a written plan to fulfill their duties and submit the plan to the court. The court also ordered the Defendants to institute contested case procedures so that members of the public could challenge the Defendants’ actions in discharging their trust duties.

The Defendants appealed the circuit court’s decision and the case was transferred to this court.

Supreme
Court