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Oral Argument before the Hawaii Supreme Court –SCAP-22-0000029

No. SCAP-22-0000029, Thursday, January 19, 2023, 10 a.m.

ACADEMIC LABOR UNITED, an unincorporated association; ASHLEY HIʻILANI SANCHEZ; KAWENAʻULAOKALĀ KAPAHUA; and CAMERON GRIMM, Plaintiffs-Appellants, vs. BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAIʻI; HAWAIʻI LABOR RELATIONS BOARD; and STATE OF HAWAIʻI, Defendants-Appellees.

The above-captioned case was set for oral argument on the merits at:

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

The oral argument was livestreamed for public viewing via Olelo Community Television and the Judiciary’s YouTube channel at YouTube.com/hawaiicourts.

Attorneys for appellants Academic Labor United, Ashley Hiʻilani Sanchez; Kawenaʻulaokalā Kapahu; and Cameron Grimm:

Lance D. Collins of the Law Office of Lance D. Collins, and Bianca K. Isaki of the Law Office of Bianca Isaki

Attorneys for appellee Hawaiʻi Labor Relations Board:

Linda K. Goto and Midori K. Hirai

Attorneys for appellee Board of Regents of the University of Hawaiʻi:

Carrie K. S. Okinaga, University General Counsel, and Joseph F. Kotowski, Associate General Counsel

Attorneys for appellee State of Hawaiʻi:

James E. Halvorson and Richard H. Thomason, Deputy Attorneys General

NOTE: Order granting Application for Transfer, filed 08/29/22.

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

[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:

This case is brought by Academic Labor United (ALU), an unincorporated graduate students’ organization that seeks to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of graduate student employees of the University of Hawaiʻi (“Appellants”). Appellants sued the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiʻi Labor Relations Board, and the State of Hawaiʻi (Appellees) in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, seeking eight declaratory judgments. These included a declaration that members of ALU are persons in public employment within the meaning of Article 8, Section 2 of the Hawaiʻi Constitution and H.R.S. § 89-2; a declaration that they have the right to organize for the purposes of collective bargaining; and a declaration that they have the right to be included within one or more of the bargaining units established by H.R.S. § 89-6.

Appellees moved to dismiss, arguing that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Adding new positions – such as graduate student employees – to existing collective bargaining units requires HLRB to hold an administrative hearing in which current bargaining units may participate. Because the judgment of the circuit court would not be binding on these existing bargaining units, they would be free to re-litigate the issue, and the circuit court’s judgment would not terminate the controversy. Appellees further argued that, under the doctrine of exhaustion, Appellants were required to seek relief from the HLRB before pursuing relief at the circuit court.

The circuit court agreed with both arguments and granted Appellees’ motion to dismiss. On appeal, Appellants contend that the circuit court erred in dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. They request that this court consider the merits of the case and grant their requests for declaratory judgment.