DeJetley v. Kahoohalahala

Opening Brief for the Appellants


Lanai residents and voters sought a declaratory judgment from the Maui circuit court that Maui Council member Kahoohalahala, who purports to occupy the Lanai residency seat on the council, does not reside on Lanai as required by the Maui Charter. Section 3-3 of the Charter provides that "If a council member...ceases to be a resident of the council member’s residency area during the council member’s term of office, or if a council member is adjudicated guilty of a felony, the council member shall immediately forfeit office and the seat shall thereupon become vacant."

The court determined as a matter of law that if Kahoohalaha is not a Lanai resident, section 3-3 of the Charter merely imposes upon him a duty to resign, and if he fails to do so, that he is subject to impeachment for "nonfeasance" pursuant to section 13-13 of the Maui Charter “or other appropriate proceeding,” but that the plaintiffs could not seek a declaratory judgment that Kahoohalahala had forfeited office and the Lanai seat was vacant.

Resolution of the questions of law presented by this appeal are of critical importance to all citizens of Maui County, because under the circuit court’s ruling, the entire electorate is deprived of the very basis of representation that their Charter guarantees. Every day a non-Lanai resident attempts to act for Lanai on the Maui Council is one more lost day of Charter-guaranteed Lanai representation.

The Charter’s words are plain and straightforward. While a felon or nonresident may also be removed by recall or impeachment, these remedies do not satisfy the Charter’s requirement of immediacy. The circuit court’s reliance on these two remedies – to the exclusion of declaratory judgment – is misplaced because each subverts the Charter’s mandatory language by leaving enforcement to the electorate’s discretion.

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Reference Info:Appellate Brief | State, 9th Circuit, Hawaii | United States

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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