Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, Inc. v. City & County of Honolulu

The Law Center challenged the Honolulu City Council’s decision to amend a meeting agenda with less notice than required by the Sunshine Law to discuss the Honolulu Police Department’s involvement in the protests at Mauna Kea.  To preserve the public’s right to know in advance what Council will discuss, such non-emergency agenda amendments are permitted only when the topic of discussion is not “of reasonably major importance.”  The protests at Mauna Kea obviously have significant importance to the people of the City & County of Honolulu.  A councilmember even stated during the discussion:  “The issue at Mauna Kea has been a very important issue to a lot of residents here in the Islands and afar.”

The Council’s pattern and practice of improper agenda amendments to circumvent public testimony on controversial topics was documented in an October 7, 2019 community voice in Honolulu Civil Beat by Natalie Iwasa.

The Law Center sought a declaration that the Council violated the Sunshine Law and to limit the Council improperly amending future agendas.  No. 1CCV-19-2070.  The case was assigned to the Honorable Lisa W. Cataldo. On April 2, 2020, Judge Cataldo granted the Law Center’s motion for an order finding that the Council violated the Sunshine Law.  On September 24, the Law Center moved for the imposition of remedies for the violation. On October 27, Judge Cataldo denied the Law Center’s motion regarding remedies.