Hawai’i’s Environmental Court Second in the Country
The state of Hawai’i is taking a stand for the environment as plans for the implementation of a statewide Environmental Court will go into effect July 1. Civil and criminal cases that affect the environment fall under the jurisdiction of the new court, launched by the Hawai’i State Judiciary.
Former Governor Neil Abercrombie signed Act 218 into law during the 2014 Legislative session, giving Hawai’i the second of only two Environmental Courts in the entire country.
“The goal of the Environmental Court is to ensure the fair, consistent, and effective resolution of cases involving the environment,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said.
A large boost in the amount of environmental courts has been seen around the world in recent years, with nearly 350 environmental courts operated in 41 countries around the world. Only two of those are in the United States. Vermont’s State Legislature implemented the first environmental court in 1990, and now Hawai’i will implement its new court in a matter of days.
“With the Environmental Court, Hawai’i will be better positioned to safeguard one of the most treasured environments in the world,” said Associate Justice Michael Wilson. “By organizing the technical and legal environmental issues under the Environmental Court, the State Legislature’s intention of promoting and protecting Hawai’i’s natural environment will be realized through informed, efficient and consistent application of Hawaii’s environmental laws.”
Justice Wilson will serve as the Chair of the Environmental Court Working Group. The assembly of court personnel from across the state will work to manage the implementation of the new specialty court. Efforts from the group are already well underway as the first task, clarifying plans for implementation to the 2015 Legislature, has been completed.
The working group has focused on assigning environmental court judges to district and circuit courts, amended the rules, updated case management systems, and adjusted schedules in preparation for the July 1 launch.