Roy v. GEICO (Confidential Flag)

Edward Wagner found a 2013 Courthouse News Service article describing a Hawaii court case involving allegations of unlawful conduct by GEICO.  But when he attempted to investigate what happened, there was no public record of the case–no docket; no filed pleadings or documents; and no listing of the judge, parties, or counsel.  The only remnant of the case was an entry stating:  “*** THIS CASE IS CONFIDENTIAL ***”.

Representing himself, Wagner filed a motion to unseal the case.  That motion ultimately was referred to the Honorable Keith K. Hiraoka for disposition.  In response to the motion to unseal, Judge Hiraoka explained that the case was hidden after the parties agreed to sealing the entire proceeding.  He held that the parties’ agreement was not sufficient grounds to seal the case and gave GEICO–who objected to unsealing the case–the opportunity to request a more limited sealing order.

On GEICO’s further motion, it sought to seal only portions of the complaint and an amended complaint.  GEICO argued that the portions must be sealed to protect the attorney-client privilege, attorney work product doctrine, trade secrets privilege, and propriety of the judicial process.  Wagner opposed the motion. Judge Hiraoka denied GEICO’s motion in its entirety and ordered the entire case unsealed.  But when GEICO filed a notice of appeal on August 8, 2018, the circuit court held that it no longer had the authority to carry out its unsealing order.

On August 27, Wagner–represented by the Law Center–asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to order the immediate unsealing of the case.  At the time of his filing, the entire case remained sealed and inaccessible to the general public through the Judiciary’s files, even though Wagner had copies of most of the filings.  The Hawaii Supreme Court denied the petition.  No. SCPW-18-670.

The Law Center also appeared as counsel of record for Wagner in GEICO’s appeal; the Law Center later substituted for Wagner as the entity pushing for public access.  On January 23, 2023, the ICA affirmed Judge Hiraoka’s unsealing order, rejecting GEICO’s claims of attorney-client privilege, attorney work product doctrine, and trade secrets.  On July 25, the Hawaii Supreme Court rejected GEICO’s application for writ of certiorari.  No. CAAP-18-613; SCWC-18-613.

ICA Proceedings

Select Unsealed Files

Hawaii Supreme Court Petition (Wagner v. Hiraoka)