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Hawaii Supreme Court

Leans Pro Government
Total Judgeships: 

5 (0 vacancies)

Political Makeup: 

Non- Partisan



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Dividing the Assets Between the Unlicensed Married Couple

Fri, 02/28/2014

Collins v. Wassell: Collins and Wassell had a marriage ceremony but never completed their marriage licensing to avoid the financial implications. The two financially acted as a married couple, having joint bank accounts. They finalized their marriage license 5 years later and then 2 years later, decided to get a divorce. Collins argued that she has a right to half of all assets, including those gained in the time period between their wedding and their licensing. The Family Court ruled against Collins.


The Supreme Court of Hawaii reversed the decision of the Family Court and ruled in favor of Collins, stating that the Family Court erred in their judgment of determining that Collins and Wassell did not participate a premarital economic partnership. The Court remanded for further proceedings, recommending equalization of the division of assets.

Read the full decision here

Continuous Crime Defined

Fri, 02/28/2014

State v. Decoite: Decoite was charged with having committed domestic abuse and the State filed a motion for the conviction to treat his crime as a “continuous course of conduct” over a two-year period. The Circuit Court determined that domestic abuse is an event versus a continuous conduct crime and thus dismissed the State’s motion.


The Supreme Court of Hawaii affirmed the decision of the Circuit Court, agreeing that charges such as domestic abuse cannot be considered as continuous conduct offenses. The case as remanded for further proceedings. The act of defining crimes as continuous or discontinuous goes a long way to making the law code more specific, helping to clarify people's rights so that they have an adequate opportunity to defend themselves to prove their innocence.

Read the full decision here

Company Held Financially Responsible for Reef Restoration before Rules Established

Fri, 02/14/2014

Pila'a 400, LLC v. Bd. of Land & Natural Res.: Pila’a privately owns 383 acres of land, which naturally has a slope that leads to runoff into the ocean. Pila’a did construction work on the land which, among other side-effects, created heavy mud runoff into the ocean, greatly harming a coral reef. As a result, the Board demanded that Pila’a pay for the full restoration of the land and reef. Pila’a argued that it should not be held responsible because the Board does not have land-use rules in place or the authority to charge Pila’a for restoration that doesn’t have a pre-determined guideline.


The Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled in favor of the Board. The Court decided that (1) the Board does not need to have previously determined guidelines or rules in order to charge Pila’a with the financial burden of restoration, and (2) that the Board has the authority to hold Pila’a responsible. This ruling is concerning because the financial burden that Pila'a is now responsible for was both unforeseeable and without the ability to estimate since there were no land-use guidelines to follow or measure against to uphold what restoration efforts will be deemed acceptable or complete.

Read the full decision here