East Hawaii News

Supreme Court to Convene First-Ever Big Island Session

December 2, 2013, 1:50 PM HST
* Updated December 3, 8:57 AM
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The Hawai`i Supreme Court will convene Tuesday morning at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo to hear oral arguments in a case involving property rights in a divorce.

The appearance is part of the state Judiciary’s “Courts in the Community” outreach program.

Judiciary officials believe it will be the first time the state’s high court has held a session on the Big Island.

It is scheduled at the university’s Performing Arts Center from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. The doors to the theater will open at 9 a.m.

Students from UH-Hilo and a variety of public schools will be present, Judiciary spokeswoman Tammy Mori said.

The oral argument is open to the public, although filming or photographing of the students in the audience is not allowed.

The state's top court is shown holding a "Courts in the Community" session last year on Maui. Judiciary photo.

The state’s top court holding a “Courts in the Community” session last year on Maui. Judiciary photo.

The court’s five justices will hear arguments in Collins v. Wassell, a Big Island divorce case.

Hilo attorney Joy San Buenaventura will argue the case on behalf of the plaintiff, Colleen Collins, who filed for divorce from defendant John Wassell. He is represented by Hilo attorney Andrew Iwashita.

Collin’s divorce filing argued that she was entitled to compensation for her contributions while the couple lived together before their marriage.

In response, Wassell maintained that he and Collins had agreed that they would maintain separate “financial identities” until the time of their marriage.

The Family Court agreed with Wassell’s position that the two had not formed, in keeping with legal precedent, a financial partnership before they were married.

The case was appealed, and in a split opinion, the Intermediate Court of Appeals agreed with the Family Court.

Hawai`i Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. Judiciary photo.

Hawai`i Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. Judiciary photo.

Collins has asked the state’s highest court to overturn the appeals court ruling.

More information on the case can be found here.

Following the session, students will take part in separate question-and-answer sessions with the two attorneys and the Supreme Court justices, neither of which will be open to the public or media.

The students will later participate in a moot court activity facilitated by the Hawaii County Bar Association.

Their transportation to and from UH-Hilo is being provided by the Hawaii State Bar Association.

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