HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last week, Marianne Ambrose was in a dispute with her landlord.
When he gave her an eviction notice from the single room she rents in a Nanakuli home, she called police. She thought the notice violated federal and state emergency orders banning evictions.
But the officers who came told her that the dispute was not a police matter.
“They said it was civil,” Ambrose said, “and they said the court was closed.”
In fact, for disputes like that, the courts are open, according to Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.
“if there is a conflict where the landlord says the tenant is engaging in conduct that is threatening or destructive that could harm health and safety or the other way around that would be in the category of a restraining order so we are able we have been adjudicating those cases,” Recktenwald told Hawaii News Now.
Recktenwald on Monday extended his own orders, which regulate how the state courts are operating during the pandemic to keep the public and staff safe and comply with stay-at-home orders from state and county authorities.
It was clear that jury trials, which involve many people forced to attend long sessions in small rooms, had to stop.
But Recktenwald said proceedings that don’t involve juries or large gatherings, such as open calls for traffic court or misdemeanor trial calls, are ongoing with the understanding that the Judiciary has an essential role in public safety.
“We were very careful to identify certain categories of matters that were particularly urgent and would continue to be heard,” Recktenwald said. “Those are restraining order cases in the family court and in the district court and child welfare matters.”
Family court judges are not hearing routine custody and child support cases, including challenges raised by stay home orders (which can affect visitation and child support payments).
But family court is working on ways to take up these matters possibly with remote appearances.
Hearings on traffic violations are all being delayed until it is safe for large numbers of people to return to the courthouses. But if a driver wants to contest a citation in writing that is an option and those are being reviewed and decided by Traffic Court judges.
Criminal cases are proceeding as long as no jury trial is involved although many non-urgent hearings are being delayed to avoid transporting inmates from jail.
Here is the complete list of business still being conducted in Hawaii courts:
- Temporary restraining orders
- Gun violence protective orders
- Juvenile custody cases for minors at Hale Hoomalu
- Civil commitment hearings
- Emergency guardianships
- Shelter care hearings
- Child welfare services cases
- Initial appearance and preliminary hearings in felony cases
- Arraignment and plea
- Bail hearings
- Orders for temporary hospitalization
- Motions to revoke conditional release
- Any hearings deemed urgent