Like most other states, the Hawaii judicial system comprises the Supreme Court, the ultimate judicial authority in the state; the Intermediate Appellate Court, The Circuit Tribunals, family Courts, and District Courts. These have been listed here in descending order based on their jurisdiction and place in the judicial hierarchy.
The Supreme Court of Hawaii
As the apex judicial body in the state, the Supreme Court has original, mandatory, discretionary, and appellate jurisdictions and oversees the smooth functioning of the judicial system and interprets the laws of the state. The Court of Last Resort’s primary responsibility, as it is commonly known, is to handle appeals from the lower courts. The appeals have to be filed through writs of certiorari, which request the transfer of a case from the Court of Appeals. Apart from this, the Supreme Court also:
- Hears matters concerning the preservation of law from the tax appeal court, the circuit courts, and the land court
- Answers certified questions of law from the federal courts.
- Handles writs directed at judges and public officers
- Deals with complaints about elections
- Tackles the admission of attorneys to law practice, the disciplining of judges
- Makes rules of practice for all the tribunals in the judicial network
The Court of Appeals (ICA)
The Intermediate Court of Appeals handles the bulk of all appellate matters in the state. Complaints against the verdict given by the Circuit Courts are taken to the ICA. The appellate court comprises 6 judges who sit in panels of 3 to hear cases. It should be noted here that there are no retrials at this phase; only the written court dockets are studied for any errors.
Of course, given its position in the judicial network, the Court of Appeals can pick up cases from the lower tribunals before the verdict has been delivered at its discretion. The Intermediate Court of Appeals’ decision stands as final unless the Supreme Court accepts the review petition in the matter.
The Circuit Courts
These are tribunals of general jurisdiction; this means they have the authority to hear all criminal and civil cases, although the less important matters are handled by the district courts to reduce the burden on the circuit tribunals. These courts also have the exclusive authority to handle matters of guardianship, felonies, probate, and civil disputes ranging over $25,000 in compensation.
Circuit Courts share jurisdiction with the district tribunals when it comes to non-jury trials in civil matters where the disputed amount is between $10,000 and $25,000. Apart from this, circuit courts also handle cases that are appealed from the district courts and misdemeanor trials bounded over for jury trials.
The District Courts
There are four District Courts in Hawaii, one in each judicial circuit. The first covers the island of O`ahu and others that are not a part of any other judicial district; the second judicial district is made up of the islands of Lana`i, Maui, Moloka`i, Molokini, and Kaho`olawe; the island of Hawaii forms the third and the fourth circuit while the fifth is made up of the islands of Ni`ihau and Kaua`i.
District Courts hear cases about traffic and municipal, county ordinance violations, criminal cases where the punishment cannot be longer than one-year imprisonment, preliminary hearings for felony cases, and civil actions where the value of the disputed property does not exceed $20,000. Since it handles the preliminary processes linked to felony trials, this court charges active warrants in Hawaii.
Apart from this, the state’s judicial system also has the provision for family courts that deal with all domestic dispute cases and matters about children, including delinquency. Land Courts and Tax Appeal Courts are also included in the judicial framework.