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Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court — SCWC-20-0000776

No. SCWC-20-0000776, Wednesday, September 21, 2022, 2 p.m.


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

The oral argument was held remotely and livestreamed for public viewing via the Judiciary’s YouTube channel at

Attorneys for Petitioner City and County of Honolulu, by the Department of the Corporation Counsel:

Linda Lee K. Farm and Donna H. Kalama of Farm Benedict Sugihara

Attorneys for Respondent Honolulu Police Commission:

Denise W. M. Wong and Duane W. H. Pang, Deputies Corporation Counsel

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Associate Justice Paula A. Nakayama, filed 06/21/22.

NOTE: Order assigning Circuit Judge Kelsey T. Kawano, in place of Nakayama, J., recused, filed 7/14/22.

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 07/25/22.

COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., McKenna, Wilson, and Eddins, JJ., and Circuit Judge Kawano, in place of Nakayama, J., recused.

Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]
Some of the technical issues were edited out of this audio file.

Brief Description:

In 2017 and 2018, federal grand juries returned indictments against Louis Kealoha (“Kealoha”), formerly Chief of Police of the Honolulu Police Department (“HPD”), Kealoha’s spouse, and certain HPD officers. Among other charges, Kealoha was indicted for allegedly conspiring to frame his relative, Gerard Puana (“Puana”), for stealing the Kealohas’ mailbox. Kealoha requested the City and County of Honolulu (“the City”) provide him with an attorney for his defense. The Honolulu Police Commission (“the Commission”) held a contested case hearing on the matter. The Commission determined that, as to some of the charges against him, Kealoha was entitled to representation by an attorney to be employed and paid by the City. The Commission found that the allegations against Kealoha included that Kealoha: (1) directed HPD officers to surveil Puana; (2) created a false police report identifying Puana as a criminal suspect; and (3) directed HPD officers to arrest Puana for stealing the mailbox. The Commission concluded these alleged actions were “done in the performance of Kealoha’s duty as a police officer” regardless of Kealoha’s motive.

The City appealed from the Commission’s decision. The Circuit Court of the First Circuit and the Intermediate Court of Appeals (“ICA”) affirmed the decision. On certiorari, the City argues: (1) the Commission improperly relied on the complaint allegation rule; (2) the ICA erred by rejecting the “scope of employment” test and declining to consider the constitutional concerns inherent in providing taxpayer-funded representation for acts that serve no public purpose; (3) the ICA erred when it upheld the Commission’s decision and concluded Kealoha met his burden of proof; and (4) the Commission’s Rule 11-1 is invalid.