Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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In this case concerning the State's refusal to produce the results of an investigation into the Office of the Auditor based in part on the lawyer-client privilege the Supreme Court held that the State may not exclude a government record from disclosure under the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA) on the basis of a lawyer-client relationship between two State entities that is asserted but not proved. Honolulu Civil Beat Inc. (Civil Beat) contacted the Department of the Attorney General (the Department) requesting under the UIPA access to copies of investigative reports related to the State Auditor's Office. The State refused to produce any documentation based in part on the lawyer-client privilege and the professional rule protecting confidential lawyer-client communications. Civil Beat filed a complaint alleging that the Department had denied Civil Beat its right to access government records under the UIPA. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Civil Beat. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that the requested record was protected from disclosure under the UIPA by Haw. Rev. Stat. 92F-13(4). Because the court did not address the two other disclosure exceptions asserted by the Department, the Supreme Court remanded the case. View "Honolulu Civil Beat Inc. v. Department of the Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) did not abuse its discretion by imposing sanctions on two attorneys (together, Counsel) and denying Counsel's motion to reconsider the sanctions orders but that the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) was not authorized to treat the sanctions orders as administrative dispositions that might be used in any future disciplinary proceedings as evidence of aggravation. In a criminal matter, the ICA sanctioned counsel each in the amount of $50 based on Haw. R. App. P. 51. Counsel filed a motion for reconsideration of the sanctions order, which the ICA denied. The Supreme Court affirmed the ICA's sanctions orders against Counsel but ordered that the clerk of court transmit this opinion to the ODC for appropriate action consistent with this opinion, holding (1) the ICA did not abuse its discretion by imposing sanctions pursuant to Rule 51 and denying the motion for reconsideration; and (2) the ODC was without authority to treat the sanctions orders as administrative dispositions that might be used in the future as evidence of a pattern of conduct in aggravation. View "In re Partington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Rule 6 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Hawai’i (RSCH) did not prohibit Dentons US LLP from practicing law in Hawai’i through its Hawai’i-licensed attorneys because the portions of RSCH Rule 6 that prohibit non-Hawai’i-licensed attorneys from serving as directors or officers of Hawai’i law firms with a multi-jurisdictional presence were repealed by implication by other rules of the Court. When the RSCH Rule 6 was first promulgated, only Hawai’i-licensed attorneys could serve as partners or shareholders in Hawai’i law corporations. The Court’s ethical rules governing the practice of law changed thereafter to eliminate the requirement that only Hawai’i-licensed attorneys could serve as partners in Hawai’i law firms and to allow law firms practicing in Hawaii to have non-Hawai’i-licensed members. The Supreme Court held that RSCH Rule 6 did not prohibit a former law firm partners’ practice of law in Hawai’i as part of Dentons US LLP because the portions of RSCH Rule 6 at issue have been superseded, by implication, by other rules of the Court that permit law firms composed of Hawai’i-licensed and non-Hawaii-licensed attorneys to practice law in Hawai’i, to mean “in this state or in any other state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia.” View "Sheveland v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Attorney alleging that Attorney failed properly to advertise and conduct non-judicial foreclosure sales of their properties in violation of duties under Plaintiffs’ mortgages, statutory law, common law, and the consumer protection statute. The circuit court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that dismissal was appropriate where (1) the statutory requirements of former Haw. Rev. Stat. 667-5 and 776-7 do not give rise to a private right of action against a foreclosing mortgagee’s attorney; and (2) an unfair or deceptive acts or practices acts or practices claim against Attorney as the foreclosing mortgagee’s attorney was not recognized. View "Sigwart v. Office of David B. Rosen" on Justia Law