Hawai‘i Supreme Court Reinstates Elections Clerk Cases

May 12, 2018, 8:00 AM HST
* Updated May 11, 1:56 PM
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The Hawai‘i State Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the dismissal of the defamation lawsuit filed by county elections clerk, Patricia Nakamoto and a deputy elections clerk, Shyla Ayau.

The court reversed the Intermediate Court Third Circuit’s dismissal and Intermediate Court of Appeals decision that upheld the dismissal of Nakamoto and Ayau’s case.

In a 48-page decision written by Chief Justice Recktenwald, the court ruled that employees can sue their employers for defamation and damage of their reputation. The court also ruled that private investigators have a legal duty to investigate incidents with accuracy and objectivity.

Ted Hong, a Hilo attorney representing Nakamoto and Ayau, said the impact of the decision in the workplace cannot be understated.

“This is an important decision for all employees who need to protect their reputation from malicious employers and co-workers,” Hong said. “The court’s decision will help protect workers in the changing, modern workplace for the next fifty years, at least.”


According to Hong, the court decision puts cases back on track and will hold accountable the individuals who have ruined his clientsʻ reputations.


“The time has come for the County to do the right thing,” said Hong. “The question is: will they? Or will they continue to bleed Ms. Nakamoto and Ms. Ayau by forcing them to take their cases to trial?”


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