Hawaii high court ruling impacts Family Court


HONOLULU — Because of a recent Hawaii Supreme Court ruling, hundreds of Family Court cases are being dismissed.

Last month’s ruling overturned a misdemeanor abuse conviction for Sushil Basnet because his arraignment didn’t take place at the Family Court’s circuit level. Oahu’s Family Court had a long-standing practice of holding arraignments in its district court and then sending cases to its circuit court without a second arraignment there.

The high court ruled that’s a violation of Hawaii penal procedure. Defendants must be arraigned the second time to give circuit court jurisdiction to try that case, the unanimous ruling said.

State judges have dismissed more than 130 Family Court misdemeanor cases and another 100 more will be tossed out, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said his office will refile the criminal charges in all dismissed cases. He said it will be a tragedy if domestic violence victims are denied justice.

“It’s unfair that we now have to refile (cases) because of the court’s practices,” he said, adding that it will be a lot of extra work.

Family Court judges have been dismissing pending cases on three Mondays since the high court’s Dec. 18 decision. New misdemeanor cases won’t be affected, said Tammy Mori, state Judiciary spokeswoman.

Mori said Family Court judges have been notified to implement a new practice to abide by the rules.

Family Court’s way of handling cases had been going on for years, said state public defender Jack Tonaki.

“I think it’s a correct ruling,” he said. “The rule is the rule. All the Supreme Court was doing is interpreting the court rules and the procedures that were set up by the court rule.”