Grube v. Trader

Nick Grube, a reporter at Honolulu Civil Beat, challenged an order entered in State. v. Ahn, Cr. No. 15-1-1338, that sealed all records and docket entries related to a September 9, 2016 proceeding before the Honorable Rom A. Trader.  Grube questioned whether the prosecution’s conclusory assertion of interference with a pending investigation was sufficient to justify sealing records and whether the scope of the sealing order was excessive.  He also challenged the judge’s requirement that Grube retain counsel in the circuit court to assert his constitutional right of access to judicial records.  No. SCPW-17-927.

On June 5, 2018, the Hawaii Supreme Court reaffirmed that courts must follow the procedural and substantive standards for sealing court records.  The court further held that efforts to seal must be supported by specific facts, not conclusory assertions; that harm to an individual’s official reputation would not justify sealing court records; and that courts must specifically address possible alternatives to sealing records.  The Hawaii Supreme Court also confirmed that the circuit court should not have required Grube to retain an attorney to assert his right of access to court records.

On June 15, 2018, the circuit court unsealed the records, revealing that the September 9, 2016 proceeding concerned a plea agreement and change of plea.  Nick Grube, Here’s a New Twist in the Honolulu Corruption Case, Honolulu Civil Beat (June 19, 2018).