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United Public Workers, AFSCME, AFL-CIO v. Lingle

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii

June 18, 2013

UNITED PUBLIC WORKERS, AFSCME, LOCAL 646, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
LINDA LINGLE, GOVERNOR, STATE OF HAWAI'I; LINDA SMITH, CHIEF POLICY ADVISER TO LINDA LINGLE, STATE OF HAWAI'I; GEORGIANA KAWAMURA, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND FINANCE, STATE OF HAWAI'I; MARIE LADERTA, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT, STATE OF HAWAI'I; CLAYTON FRANK, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, STATE OF HAWAI'I; STATE OF HAWAI'I; AND DOE DEFENDANTS 1-10 (2009-045), Defendants-Appellees

NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAII REPORTS AND PACIFIC REPORTER

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT (CIVIL NO. 09-1-2145-09 PWB)

Herbert R. Takahashi Rebecca L. Covert Davina W. Kam Chief Judge (Takahashi and Covert) for Plaintiff-Appellant.

James E. Halvorson Richard H. Thomason Associate Judge Deputy Attorneys General for Defendants-Appellees.

Nakamura, C.J., Foley and Fujise, JJ.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff-Appellant United Public Workers, AFSCME, Local 646, AFL-CIO (UPW) appeals from the May 15, 2012 "Order Granting Defendants' Second Motion To Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Filed September 16, 2009" (Order) and the May 15, 2012 Final Judgment entered in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit[1](circuit court) in favor of Defendants-Appellees Linda Lingle, Governor, State of Hawai'i; Linda Smith, Chief Policy Adviser to Linda Lingle, State Of Hawai'i; Georgina Kawamura, Director, Department of Budget and Finance, State of Hawai'i; Marie Laderta, Director, Department of Human Resources Development, State of Hawai'i; Clayton Frank, Director, Department of Public Safety, State of Hawai'i; State of Hawai'i (collectively, State Defendants) .

I. BACKGROUND

UPW is the bargaining representative of employees in bargaining units 1 and 10. In June 2009, UPW and the Hawai'i State Teacher Association filed civil complaints in the circuit court, on the unions' behalf and on behalf of the bargaining unit employees they represent, challenging then-Governor Linda Lingle's decision to furlough all state employees (furlough suit). On September 16, 2009, UPW filed the instant complaint, alleging the State Defendants had threatened and implemented mass layoffs and privatization efforts not out of economic necessity but rather in retaliation against UPW and its members for filing the furlough suit. Around the same time, UPW also filed (1) a prohibited practice complaint with the Hawai'i Labor Relations Board (HLRB) and (2) individual and class grievances, challenging the layoffs and privatization efforts.

On September 27, 2011, the State Defendants filed in the circuit court a motion to dismiss UPW's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The State Defendants argued for dismissal based on Hawai'i Gov't Employees Ass'n, AFSCME Local 152, AFL-CIO v. Lingle (HGEA), 124 Hawai'i 197, 239 P.3d 1 (2010) and Hawai'i State Teachers Ass'n v. Abercrombie (HSTA), 126 Hawai'i 318, 271 P.3d 613 (2012). On May 15, 2012, the circuit court entered its Order concluding:

[T]he underlying facts and allegations set forth in the instant complaint mirror those alleged by UPW in its case before the HLRB as constituting alleged prohibited practices. [Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS)] Section 89-14 [(2012 Repl.)] provides that the HLRB shall have exclusive, original jurisdiction over controversies implicating prohibited practices, and it would be wholly inconsistent with the HLRB's exclusive, original jurisdiction for this Court to hear the same underlying factual disputes and allegations and create the possibility of inconsistent judgments. On the contrary, the Court finds that the statutory scheme mandates that those facts, allegations and claims raised by UPW in its prohibited practice complaint be heard to conclusion by the HLRB first and subject to judicial review by a court of competent jurisdiction operating in its appellate capacity.

The circuit court's Order dismissed without prejudice[2] all claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On May 16, 2012, the circuit court entered its Final Judgment in favor of the State Defendants.

UPW filed a timely notice of appeal on May 21, 2012. On appeal, UPW contends the circuit court erred in concluding the complaint's claims lay within the HLRB's exclusive original jurisdiction and in concluding the pending HLRB jurisdiction divested the circuit court of jurisdiction.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The existence of jurisdiction is a question of law that we review de novo under the right/wrong standard. Questions regarding subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of a cause of action. When reviewing a case where the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, the appellate court retains jurisdiction, not on the merits, but for the purpose of correcting the error ...

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