Cornel v. Hawaii

Citation501 F.Supp.3d 927
Decision Date17 November 2020
Docket NumberCiv. No. 19-00236 JMS-RT
Parties Elizabeth CORNEL, Plaintiff, v. State of HAWAII; Hawaii Paroling Authority; Dexter Kauahi, Badge No. 1199, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Hawaii

Myles S. Breiner, Law Offices of Myles S. Breiner, Paul V. Smith, Schutter Dias Smith & Wong, Honolulu, HI, Terrance M. Revere, Revere & Associates, LLC, Kailua, HI, for Plaintiff.

Caron M. Inagaki, William R.K. Awong, Office of the Attorney General, Honolulu, HI, for Defendants State of Hawaii, Hawaii Paroling Authority.

William R.K. Awong, Office of the Attorney General, Honolulu, HI, for Defendant Dexter Kauahi.


J. Michael Seabright, Chief United States District Judge


Defendant Dexter Kauahi ("Kauahi"), a State of Hawaii deputy sheriff, arrested Plaintiff Elizabeth Cornel ("Plaintiff" or "Cornel") on February 2, 2018 based on a parole-violation arrest warrant issued in 2011 that stated on its face: "Maximum Parole Term: March 15, 2015." ECF No. 64 at PageID # 455. Asserting that the arrest warrant was "stale and/or invalid," ECF No. 58 at PageID # 356, Cornel sued Kauahi and co-Defendants the State of Hawaii and the Hawaii Paroling Authority ("HPA") for false arrest and other state law claims, as well as under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Id. at PageID ## 359-68. Defendants1 now move for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. ECF No. 60.

Although some of Cornel's claims fail for other reasons, the case ultimately turns on whether Cornel—regardless of what parole term was printed on the arrest warrant—had actually completed her ten-year term of incarceration (including a term of parole) before she was arrested. If she had already served her full sentence and her parole had been discharged when arrested, then some of her claims may have merit. But if not, then her entire case fails.

After considering the summary-judgment record, there is no dispute of material fact that Cornel had not finished serving her sentence when arrested on February 2, 2018. Rather, Cornel's parole had been suspended and, under Hawaii Revised Statutes ("HRS") § 353-66(c), time while parole is suspended does not count towards a sentence. For that and other reasons, the court GRANTS DefendantsMotion for Summary Judgment.


The court considers this case at a summary-judgment stage after previously reviewing Kauahi's Motion to Dismiss. See ECF No. 56 ("Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant Dexter Kauahi's Second Motion to Dismiss") (available at Cornel v. Hawaii , 2020 WL 3271934 (D. Haw. June 17, 2020) ) (the "June 17, 2020 Order"). The June 17, 2020 Order—addressing only claims against Kauahi2 —dismissed the Second Amended Complaint's ("SAC") state-law claims against Kauahi with leave to amend, but denied Kauahi's Motion to Dismiss regarding claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because "it would [have been] improper to decide in [Kauahi's] favor at [that] motion-to-dismiss stage," as doing so would have "required consideration of evidence and an interpretation of the meaning of different factual allegations and of the proffered exhibits[.]" Cornel , 2020 WL 3271934, at *6. At that stage, the court was "unable to determine Cornel's actual parole discharge date, and thus [was] unable to decide whether she was arrested after she had been discharged from parole." Id. Now, however, the court is able to analyze that question based on an evidentiary record—and, as established to follow, it is undisputed that Cornel had not been discharged when she was arrested.

With that context, the court sets forth the factual and procedural background, construing the evidence in the light most favorable to Cornel where materially disputed. See, e.g., S.R. Nehad v. Browder , 929 F.3d 1125, 1132 (9th Cir. 2019) (reiterating that, at summary judgment, courts "view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party's favor") (citation omitted).

A. Factual Background

Kauahi is a sheriff employed by the State of Hawaii, Department of Public Safety. ECF No. 58 at PageID # 354; ECF No. 61-3 at PageID # 425. He arrested Cornel on February 2, 2018, by serving an arrest warrant issued by the HPA on May 23, 2011 for a parole violation. ECF No. 58 at PageID # 356; ECF No. 61-3 at PageID # 427; ECF No. 64 at PageID # 455.

Understanding the circumstances of the warrant's issuance and Cornel's status when arrested is critical in assessing whether Defendants are entitled to summary judgment. As with the June 17, 2020 Order, the court presents the key facts and evidence in a timeline format, but now with a more complete picture:

Aug. 12, 2005: Cornel was sentenced in state court to 10 years of incarceration for, among other crimes, violating HRS § 712-1242 (promoting a dangerous drug). The HPA set her minimum term of imprisonment at two years and six months. ECF No. 58 at PageID # 355; see also ECF No. 61-4 at PageID # 429 (10 years of incarceration under Count 3 of the state charges).
Oct. 18, 2007: Cornel was released on parole based on a September 20, 2007 Order of Parole. ECF No. 58 at PageID # 356; ECF No. 61-6 at PageID # 432. Her parole term was set to expire on March 15, 2015. See, e.g. , ECF No. 61-1 at PageID # 417; ECF No. 61-5 at PageID # 431 (setting the "Maximum Term Release Date" of March 15, 2015).
The Order of Parole provided in part:
"While on parole and until expiration of [Cornel's] maximum parole term or granted a final discharge, [Cornel] shall continue to be in the legal custody and control of the [HPA]. Should [Cornel] at any time violate any of the terms or conditions of [her] parole, [she] shall be subject to summary return to imprisonment." ECF No. 61-6 at PageID # 432.
"Should [Cornel] fail to keep the [HPA] informed as to [her] whereabouts ... [her] parole may be suspended by the [HPA] pending knowledge of [her] whereabouts and return. After such suspension [she] shall be deemed a parole violator and no part of the time during which [her] parole was suspended shall be credited towards [her] parole term." Id.
One of the terms and conditions of her parole was:
"You shall always keep you parole officer informed as to your whereabouts. You shall notify and obtain the permission of your parole officer before changing your place of residence. Such notification shall include exact new address and, if available, telephone number. Your place of residence must meet with the approval of your parole officer." Id. at PageID # 433.
March 8, 2011: The HPA received a letter dated March 1, 2011 from Cornel stating that her lease had been terminated and that she was looking for a new residence. ECF No. 61-1 at PageID # 417; ECF No. 69-8 at PageID # 488. Cornel gave the HPA a P.O. Box as a mailing address, a temporary physical address, and a new phone number. See ECF No. 69-8 at PageID ## 488-89; ECF No. 69-1 at PageID # 474.
When the HPA tried to contact Cornel at the phone number she provided, a message stated that the subscriber did not receive incoming calls. ECF No. 61-1 at PageID # 417. When the HPA tried to reach Cornel through the P.O. Box that she provided, the mailing was returned as undeliverable. Id. And when the HPA conducted a field visit to the address that she provided, Cornel was no longer living there. Id.
According to Cornel's declaration, she did not evade or attempt to avoid service or contact with the HPA after her March 1, 2011 letter to the HPA. ECF No. 69-1 at PageID # 473. From 2010 to 2018, she filed tax returns, registered a business, renewed her driver's license, and signed leases for residences in Kaneohe and Waimanalo. Id. Cornel, however, admits that, after the March 1, 2011 letter, she did not further attempt to contact the HPA with her location information. Id. ; ECF No. 61-1 at PageID # 418. That is, the HPA received no further communication from Cornel regarding where she was living or where she could be found. ECF No. 61-1 at PageID # 418.
Cornel declares that she "was led to believe by my parole officer/HPA that it was unnecessary and that I was not required to do so as I was soon to be discharged from parole due to my compliance." ECF No. 69-1 at PageID # 474. Cornel, however, provides no admissible evidence (e.g., testimony or documentation from her parole officer) to support her belief.
May 23, 2011: The HPA issued a warrant for Cornel's arrest (the "re-take warrant") pursuant to HRS § 353-65.3
See ECF No. 61-1 at PageID # 418; ECF No. 64 at PageID # 455. The re-take warrant directed a sheriff to arrest Cornel for violating parole by "fail[ing] to keep her Parole Officer informed of her whereabouts when she failed to notify of her change of address ...." ECF No. 64 at PageID # 455.
Among other things, the re-take warrant stated on its face: "Date of Parole: September 20, 2007" and "Maximum Parole Term: March 15, 2015." Id.
Sept. 29, 2011: "Cornel's parole was retroactively suspended effective March 8, 2011." ECF No. 58 at PageID # 356. See also ECF No. 61-1 at PageID # 418 (HPA Administrator Tommy Johnson declaring that "parole was retroactively suspended back to March 8, 2011"); ECF No. 61-2 at PageID # 423 (HPA Chair Edmund Hyun declaring the same); ECF No. 61-14 at PageID # 443 (letter referring to the HPA's "previous decision of September 29, 2011 that suspended your parole effective March 8, 2011"); ECF No. 69-4 at PageID # 481 ("Parole suspended effective 3/8/11.").
Suspension of parole is governed by HRS § 353-66(c), which provides in relevant part:
"[I]f the whereabouts of any paroled prisoner is not known to the [HPA] because of the neglect or failure of the prisoner to so inform it, the [HPA] may order the parole suspended pending apprehension. From and after the suspension of the parole of any paroled prisoner and until the paroled prisoner's return to custody, the paroled

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