Clark v. Arakaki

Decision Date29 August 2008
Docket NumberNo. 26976.,26976.
Citation191 P.3d 176,118 Hawai'i 355
CourtHawaii Supreme Court
PartiesEdward CLARK, Ollie Fulks, and Matthew Binder, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. James ARAKAKI, in his official capacity as a candidate, Casey Jarman<SMALL><SUP>1</SUP></SMALL>, in her official capacity as County Clerk and Chief Election Officer for the County of Hawai`i, Kevin B. Cronin<SMALL><SUP>2</SUP></SMALL>, in his official capacity as Chief Election Officer for the State of Hawai`i, County of Hawai`i, John Does 1-10, Jane Does 1-10, Doe Corporations, Partnerships, Governmental Units or Other Entities 1-20, Defendants-Appellees.

Fred Paul Benco, Honolulu, on the briefs, for Plaintiffs-Appellants Edward Clark, Ollie Fulks and Matthew Binder.

Joseph K. Kamelamela and Katherine A. Garson, Deputies Corporation Counsel, on the briefs, for Defendants-Appellees County of Hawai`i and Casey Jarman, in her official capacity as County Clerk and Chief Election Officer.

Brian J. De Lima of Crudele & De Lima, Hilo, on the briefs, for Defendant-Appellee James Y. Arakaki.

MOON, C.J., LEVINSON, NAKAYAMA, and DUFFY, JJ. and ACOBA, J., Dissenting.

Opinion of the Court by NAKAYAMA, J.

Plaintiffs-Appellants Edward Clark, Ollie Fulks ("Fulks"), and Matthew Binder (collectively, "Appellants"), appeal from the third circuit court's ("circuit court's") November 10, 2004 final judgment and order in favor of Defendants-Appellees, James Arakaki ("Arakaki"), Casey Jarman, Rex M. Quidilla, County of Hawai`i, John Does 1-10, Jane Does 1-10, Doe Corporations, Partnerships, Governmental Units or Other Entities 1-20 (collectively, "Appellees").3 On appeal, Appellants assert generally that "the [circuit court] committed error both in granting Appellees' summary judgment motions, and in denying Appellants' motion for partial summary judgment as to Count I." For the reasons that follow, we hold that the circuit court (1) did not err when it determined that an amendment to article III, section 3-2 of the Charter of the County of Hawai`i ("the Charter Amendment") was valid notwithstanding its lack of an effective date, and (2) erred when it determined that the first term that counted toward the limit of four consecutive two-year terms was postponed to the term that commenced as a result of the 1998 election. Accordingly, we vacate the circuit court's November 10, 2004 final judgment and order, and remand with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of Appellants for reasons consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND
A. Factual Background

Article III, section 3-2 of the Charter of the County of Hawai`i provides:

There shall be a county council composed of nine members. One member shall be elected from each of nine districts. The terms of the council members shall be two years and shall begin at twelve o'clock meridian on the first Monday of December after their election. The terms of the council members shall not exceed four consecutive two year terms. Candidates shall be elected in accordance with the election laws of the state, insofar as applicable.

Charter of the County of Hawai`i ("CCH") art. III, § 3-2 (2000) (emphasis added).

On January 25, 1995, the Hawai`i County Council adopted ordinance 95-20, which proposed to place on the 1996 general election ballot an amendment to the Charter to be submitted to the electorate of Hawai`i County. County of Hawai`i, Haw., Ordinance 95-20 (Jan. 25, 1995). The entire text of the Charter Amendment states: "The terms of the council members shall not exceed four consecutive two year terms." Id. The purpose of the Amendment was simply "to provide term limits for county council members." Id.

Pursuant to section 5 of Ordinance 95-20, Resolution No. 298-96 was adopted by the Hawai`i County Council, which required public notice of the proposed Charter Amendment. In the "Public Notice Of Proposed Amendments To the Hawaii County Charter[,]" the "Digest" associated with the Charter Amendment stated, as follows:

This proposal would limit the term of council members so that no council member may be elected for more than four consecutive two year terms. If this proposal is passed, a council member may only be elected for four straight terms, thus serving a total of eight years in a row. A council member may be elected for more than four terms as long as the terms are not consecutive.

The public notices lacked any information on the effective date of the Amendment.

On November 5, 1996, the voters of Hawai`i County voted to approve the proposed Charter Amendment by a vote of 33,542 to 10,428. The results of the vote was certified by the county clerk on November 25, 1996. The Charter Amendment, as approved and certified, did not contain an effective date.

On July 22, 1998, the Hawai`i County Council adopted ordinance 98-78, which, among other things, affixed the effective date for the Charter Amendment at "twelve o'clock meridian on the first Monday of December, 1996." County of Hawai`i, Haw., Ordinance 98-78, § 1 (July 22, 1998); However, the primary purpose of this amendment was to amend Article III, section 3-2 by "chang[ing] the current limit of four consecutive two-year terms to two consecutive four-year terms." Id. This ordinance was not approved by the county electorate in the 1998 election.

Arakaki has continuously served on the Hawai'i County Council since 1992. He filed nomination papers for the 1996 election on July 23, 1996, at which time there were no term limits in effect. On November 5, 1996, Arakaki was elected to serve a two-year term on the Hawai`i County Council commencing the first Monday of December 1996. On November 25, 1996, the county clerk certified the results of Arakaki's election.

Arakaki has served as an elected member of the county council during the following consecutive two-year terms: 1992-1994, 1994-1996, 1996-1998, 1998-2000, and 2000-2002. When the complaint that initiated the instant case was filed on July 27, 2004, he was serving a two-year term that began in December 2002.

B. Procedural Background

On July 19, 2004, Arakaki filed nomination papers for the Hawai`i County Council District Three seat for a two-year term commencing December 6, 2004. Arakaki and Fulks were the only candidates running for the District Three seat in the September 18, 2004 nonpartisan county election.

On July 27, 2004, Fulks and two other voters, Edward Clark and Matthew Binder, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and other relief in the circuit court challenging Arakaki's eligibility as a candidate in the 2004 election. Specifically, Appellants sought a declaration that Arakaki's candidacy for re-election violated the term limits of the Charter of the County of Hawai`i, and for Arakaki's name to be stricken from the ballot. On August 16, 2004, Appellants filed a motion for partial summary judgment.

On September 7, 2004, Arakaki filed a cross-claim asserting that the Charter Amendment was void because of its lack of an effective date. On September 10, 2004, Arakaki filed a motion for summary judgment on his cross-claim.

On September 18, 2004, Arakaki was elected to the Hawai`i County Council seat for District Three. The election results were as follows: 3,104 votes for Arakaki, 796 votes for Fulks, and 560 blank votes. Fulks v. Konishi, No. 26834, slip op. at 2 (Haw. October 8, 2004).

On September 24, 2004, Fulks filed a complaint in this court challenging the results of the election. Id. This court dismissed his complaint because, even if this court accepted all of Fulks' allegations as true, this court had no jurisdiction to declare Fulks the winner of the 2004 election and order his term of office to begin in accordance with Hawai`i Revised Statutes ("HRS") § 12-42 (1993),4 inasmuch as Fulks was not unopposed. Id. This court also determined that it had no jurisdiction "in this election contest to declare a provision in the Hawai`i County Charter invalid and meaningless." Id.

On November 10, 2004, the circuit court filed its final judgment and order granting Arakaki's motion for summary judgment, and denying Appellants' motion for partial summary judgment. In its order, the circuit court determined that the Charter Amendment was valid, and the first election to which it applied was to candidates elected to serve a term commencing the first Monday in December 1998. Because of the court's determination, Arakaki's 1996-1998 term would not count towards the four consecutive term limit promulgated by the Charter Amendment. The circuit court reasoned that application of the Charter Amendment "to the election of 1996 council members raises issues of retroactive application." Consequently, because the "Charter Amendment contained no express provision as to its operative date[,]" it "shall be prospectively applied with the operative election being the 1998 election."

On November 30, 2004, Appellants timely filed their notice of appeal.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

On appeal, the grant or denial of summary judgment is reviewed de novo. See State ex. rel. Anzai v. City and County of Honolulu, 99 Hawai`i 508, 514, 57 P.3d 433, 439 (2002); Bitney v. Honolulu Police Dep't, 96 Hawai`i 243, 250, 30 P.3d 257, 264 (2001).

[S]ummary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A fact is material if proof of that fact would have the effect of establishing or refuting one of the essential elements of a cause of action or defense asserted by the parties. The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In other words, we must view all of the evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.

Kahale v. City and County of Honolulu, 104 Hawai`i 341, 344, 90 P.3d 233, 236 (2004) (citation omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

The instant case presents the novel...

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