Hawaii Supreme Court to Hold Session in Kona

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The Hawaii Supreme Court will be making another trip to the Big Island, this time to hear oral arguments on a case involving government records.

The visit on Tuesday, April 29, is part of the state Judiciary’s Court in the Community outreach effort.

The program will give area high school students an opportunity to see the court in action, and concludes with a moot court session involving members of the West Hawaii Bar Association.

The justices heard oral arguments on a case involving property rights in a divorce in Hilo in December, which was the first time the high court had held a session in Hawaii County.

This time the justices will convene at 10 a.m. at the Kealakehe High School gymnasium to hear arguments in the case of Molfino v. Yuen.

It involves a lawsuit filed by Geofrey Molfino against Hawaii County and its former planning director, Chris Yuen, over information provided by the Planning Department to Molfino regarding 43 acres of land he purchased in Ninole in 2003.

The department told Molfino that the land consisted of two lots. However, after he sold the land in 2004, Molfino leaned of a letter from a former planning director from 2000 which said the land actually consisted of six lots.

Molfino then sued the county, saying its failure to maintain accurate records caused him to lose money on the sale of the land.

A Circuit Court issued a ruling against Molfino, saying that he should have gone through the formal subdivision process instead of relying on the Planning Department records.

The court also said that a ruling against the county would make it liable in future cases in which someone could use the department’s files to manufacture a claim against the county, and also that it was up to the Legislature and not the courts to force the county to make sure its records are accurate.

An appeals court also ruled in favor of the county, after which Molfino took his case to the Supreme Court.

Peter Van Name Esser will be the attorney representing Molfino, and Laureen L. Martin and Michael J. Udovic will be appearing on behalf of the county and Yuen.

The session is open to the public. Since this will be a court session, photographing or filming the faces of the students in attendance will not be allowed.

The oral argument will be followed by two separate question-and-answer sessions for the students, one with the attorneys and another with the five justices. Those will not be open to the public or media.


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