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How do Hawaii Courts work?

The Supreme Court serves as the highest legal authority in the state of Hawaii. It exists mainly to overlook the decisions made by the Court of Appeals, allowing it to weigh in on important questions, conflicts, and precedents. The Court of Appeals then carries out a similar function by overseeing the decisions made by lower courts if one party decides to contest. These lower courts are made up of the five superior or trial courts in the five state counties. Other tiers of court in Hawaii include, Land Court, Tax Appeal Court, Circuit Courts, Family Courts, District Courts, Environmental Courts, and The Office of the Administrative Director of the Courts.

Civil Cases and Small Claims

There are a number of key differences between civil cases and small claims in the state of Hawaii. For example, civil court deals with cases in which the petitioner is seeking $25,000 or more. Just under 200,000 of these cases are filed each and every year in the state. However, the civil court also deals with non-monetary cases, including disputes over property, name changes, and restraining orders. On the other hand, small claims court deals with cases in which the petitioner is looking for $3,500 or less. Again, close to 200,000 of these are filed each year in the state. They can include disputes over loans, warranties, deposits, repairs and more. The small claims court can also order the defendant into an action, such as paying back a fee.

Appeals and court limits

There are also key differences between the appeals process and court limits in civil court and small claims court. Only the sued party may appeal a decision made in small claims court, where as either party can appeal in civil court. A person may not have a lawyer present in small claims court, while a lawyer may represent and file papers on the behalf of a party in civil court. Pretrial discovery is also only allowed in civil cases. The filing fee for a claim in small claims court is $30-$100, and each party is then given 30-70 days to complete their case. In civil court, the filing fee is between $180 and $320, and a time of up to 120 days is given to complete the cases. In small claims court, a person does not have to be a US citizen to file or defend, and they may hire an interpreter if their level of English requires one.

Why are court records public?

The Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act was passed in 1975, with the most recent additions coming in 2015. The aim of the act was to make sure all public records were disclosed to the public. Hawaii residents have the right to access and use the information however they wish. This promotes a sense of transparency and safeguards government accountability.

Access records at:

Address:

Ali`iolani Hale
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813-2943

www.courts.state.hi.us/courts/courts

 

Hawaii Court Structure
Hawaii State Archives

State Archives

Contact: (808) 468-8535

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Results are based upon available information from state, county and municipal databases, and may not include some or all of the above details.

Hawaii

The Aliʻiōlani Hale Courthouse was built between 1871 and 1874 in Honolulu.

  • Hawaii has 4 different courts. They are the Supreme Court, the Intermediate Court of Appeals, the Circuit Courts, and the District Courts.
  • The Supreme Court of Hawaii has 5 judicial positions, each who serve for 10 years. It was first established in 1841.
  • The Hawaii State Intermediate Court of Appeals holds jurisdiction over appeals originating in lower courts. They have 6 judicial positions with 10 year terms each.
  • The Hawaii State Circuit Courts are trial courts of general jurisdiction. They serve as the primary civil and criminal courts of Hawaii.

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