How Does The Hawaii Circuit Court Work? | Courtrecords.org
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How Does the Hawaii Circuit Court Work?

The Hawaii Circuit Courts are trial courts with general jurisdiction in the state. The courts hear a wide range of cases, including criminal and civil matters. In most cases, a Hawaii Circuit Court may accept cases that do not fall under other state courts’ jurisdiction. Note that no other Hawaii courts may conduct jury trials.

Hawaii Circuit Courts may exercise exclusive jurisdiction over all probate matters, most felony criminal matters, and most guardianships disputes. The courts’ exclusive jurisdiction also covers civil cases over $40,000 in dispute, excluding other costs and fees. In addition to these, Circuit Courts hear juvenile matters, abuse prevention cases, mechanics’ liens, domestic relations, and most civil cases with at least $10,000 in dispute. The Circuit Court shares jurisdiction over these civil cases with Hawaii District Courts.

Some divisions of Hawaii Family Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with Circuit Courts over certain criminal felony cases and guardianship matters for impaired adults.

The Hawaii Circuit Courts contact almost 40,000 persons every year to serve as prospective jurors. The courts use a master juror list which it assembles from state records, including licensed drivers, registered voters, and persons who pay state income tax. Persons to be contacted for jury duty must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Citizen of the United States, whether born or naturalized
  • At least 18 years old
  • Can read, understand and speak the English language
  • Does not have a felony conviction in any state or federal court
  • Resident in the State of Hawaii
  • Resident in the Circuit

Each Hawaii Circuit Court has multiple judges selected by the assisted appointment process. Appointing a judge begins with the Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission, which publicizes any vacancies in Hawaii Circuit Courts. All prospective and qualified candidates send applications to the Commission for review. Interested applicants should meet the following requirements to qualify:

  • Must be a citizen of the United States
  • Must reside in Hawaii
  • Must have been licensed to practice law by the Hawaii Supreme Court for a minimum of ten years before the appointment
  • Must not be up to 70 years old at the appointment time

After reviewing the applications, the Judicial Selection Commission shall create a shortlist of all qualified persons. Note that the shortlist must contain not more than six names, and not less than four names. From the Commission’s shortlist, the Hawaii governor selects one of the nominees to serve as a Circuit Court judge for a ten-year term. The appointed person may only resume office after receiving confirmation from the Hawaii State Senate.

After receiving a list of nominees from the Judicial Nominating Committee, the Hawaii governor must select an appointee within thirty days. If the Senate rejects the selection, the governor must send another name to the Senate, within ten days of the rejection. If the governor does not make a nomination or replace a nomination after the Senate’s rejection within the stipulated timeframes, the Judicial Selection Commission shall choose an appointee. This process may be repeated multiple times until an appointee is selected. However, if the process does not work, the Judicial Committee has the authority to make an appointment without waiting for the Senate’s consent.

A judge is allowed to petition the Judicial Nominating Committee for retention, to remain in the position after the judge’s tenure expires. However, interested judges must notify the Commission at least six months before the tenure expiration date. Judges that choose to retire must also inform the Commission within six months. Note that the retirement age for Hawaii judges is 70 years.

Hawaii Circuit Court judges may be removed through a recommendation from the state judiciary’s Commission on Judicial Conduct. This Commission receives complaints from the general public about all acts of misconduct by a sitting judge. Each complaint is considered and may lead to further investigation and a possible hearing. After the hearing, the Commission decides whether disciplinary action is necessary against the judge. It may then recommend to the Supreme Court that the judge be reprimanded, retired, suspended, or removed.

Note that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court serves as the administrative head of the courts. This authority allows the Chief Justice to assign judges between Circuit Courts for temporary service. The Chief Justice may appoint judges to fill a temporary vacancy in a Supreme Court, or as required in one of the Circuit Courts. The Supreme Court’s Chief Justice may also assign a Circuit Court judge to temporary service in the Intermediate Court of Appeals and assign a judge of the District Court to temporarily serve as a Circuit Court judge.

Hawaii Circuit Court records are available online via the eCourt Kokua function provided by the Hawaii State Judiciary. Interested persons may search for records using any of the following case details:

  • Person’s name
  • Business/government agency name
  • Case filing date range
  • Case type
  • Party ID
  • Case ID 
  • Citation number

The platform also allows requestors to purchase records at $3 per document or 10 cents per page. Subscription plans for court records are also available at $125 per quarter or $500 per year. Certified records are available at the individual courthouses.

Hawaii is divided into four circuits, with a Circuit court in each one. Persons interested in contacting one of the Circuit Courts or visiting for a hearing may use the information listed below:

First Circuit

Oahu First Circuit Court - Ka’ahumanu Hale

777 Punchbowl Street

Honolulu, HI 96813

Phone: (808) 539–4767

Second Circuit

Maui Second Circuit Court - Hoapili Hale

2145 Main Street

Wailuku, HI 96793

Phone: (808) 244–2929

Third Circuit

Hawaii Third Circuit Court - Hale Kaulike

777 Kilauea Avenue

Hilo, HI 96720

Phone: (808) 961–7440

Hawaii Third Circuit Court

Kona Keakealani Building

79–1020 Haukapila Street

Kealakekua, HI 96750

Phone: (808) 322–8700

Hawaii Third Circuit Court—Waimea

Waimea Civic Center, Kamuela

67–5187 Kamamalu Street

Kamuela, HI 96743

Phone: (808) 443–2030

Fifth Circuit

Kauai Fifth Circuit Court

Pu’uhonua Kaulike Building

3970 Ka’ana Street

Lihu’e, HI 96766

Phone: (808)482–2300

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