LLOYD Y. ASATO, Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant,
PROCUREMENT POLICY BOARD, STATE OF HAWAI'I, Respondent/Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT (CAAP-12-0000789, CIV. No. 11-1-0173)
Arthur Y. Park and John C. McLaren, for petitioner.
Marissa H.I. Luning, for respondent.
ACOBA, McKENNA, AND POLLACK, JJ.; WITH RECKTENWALD, C.J.
We hold that Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant Lloyd Y. Asato (Asato) had standing to bring a claim challenging the validity of Hawai'i Administrative Rule (HAR) § 3-122-66 (2008), based on his status as an "interested person" pursuant to Hawai'i Revised Statutes (HRS) § 91-7 (1993), and in order to satisfy the "needs of justice." See Life of the Land v. Land Use Comm'n., 63 Haw. 166, 176, 623 P.2d 431, 441 (1981). We also decide that HAR § 3-122-66 (2003) is invalid because it exceeds the scope of authority given by the legislature to Respondent/Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellee State of Hawai'i Procurement Policy Board (the Board). See HRS § 91-7(b) ("The court shall declare the rule invalid if it finds that it . . . exceeds the statutory authority of the agency[.]"). Finally, the court did not err in declining to invalidate all contracts issued under HAR § 3-122-66, as requested by Asato.
On January 25, 2011, Asato filed a Complaint asserting two causes of action, one for declaratory relief (declaratory action) and one for injunctive relief (injunctive action) . In his Complaint, Asato maintained that he brought the Complaint pursuant to HRS § 91-7 and that he "also had the necessary standing to prosecute this action under Federal Electric Corp. v. Fasi [(Federal Electric)1, 56 Haw. 57, 62, 527 P.2d 1284, 1289 (1974) and Iuli v. Fasi [ (Iuli) 1, 62 Haw. 180, 186, 613 P.2d 653, 657 (1980)" as a taxpayer.
The Complaint asserted that HAR § 3-122-66 "is and has always been contrary to the ^minimum of three persons' requirement [in] HRS § 103D-304(g) and is therefore invalid, and must be declared void ab initio and permanently enjoined from all further use." Further, the Complaint alleged that "[a]ccording to internet listings of contract awards on the State Procurement Office website[, ] . . . the previous City and County of Honolulu Administration has awarded at least twenty six (26) professional service contracts for architects and engineers or for other professionals with less than three (3) persons on the list submitted to the selection committee" and that "[a]11 contracts that have been issued based on HAR § 3-122-66 are void ab initio." Therefore, Asato's declaratory action requested that "the court declare as a matter of law that HAR § 3-122-66 has never been valid and has always been ultra vires because it is contrary to and violates the "minimum of three persons requirement in HRS § 103D-304(g)[.]"
Correlatively, Asato's injunctive action requested that "all existing contracts in which HAR § 3-122-66 was used in violation of the ^minimum of three persons' requirement in HRS § 103D-304(g) be rescinded as being void ab initio." Asato also asked that "a preliminary injunction, and after hearing, a permanent injunction be entered enjoining and restraining [the Board] and all its agents, servants, and employees, and all others acting in concert with them, including but not limited to the administrator of the State Procurement Office, and all of his agents, servants[, ] and employees, and all chief procurement officers and their agents, servants and employees in the state and county governments from utilizing HAR § 3-122-66 in the procurement of professional services under HRS § 103D-304."
On January 10, 2012, Asato filed a motion for summary judgment. Asato again contended that "HAR § 3-122-66 conflicts with HRS § 103D-304(g) and should be struck down[.]" Again, Asato asked the court to "declare that HAR § 3-122-66 has never been valid and has always been ultra vires and is void ab initio, enjoin its current and future use and declare that every government contract issued under the invalid authority of HAR § 3-122-66 is void ab initio."
On March 30, 2012, the Board filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. The Board argued that HAR § 3-122-66 was authorized by HRS § 103D-102 (b) (4) (L),  and therefore "HAR § 3-122-66 is a valid rule." According to the Board, Asato did not have standing as a taxpayer because he did not demonstrate that he had suffered a pecuniary loss from the enactment of HAR § 3-122-66, and Asato did not have standing under HRS § 91-7 because "HRS § 91-7 limits relief to claims from ''interested persons' who can show an actual or threatened injury." (Citing Richard v. Metcalf, 82 Haw. 249, 253, 921 P.2d 169, 173 (1996).) Finally, the Board maintained that Asato could not challenge specific contracts awarded under HAR § 3-122-66 because "[c]hallenges to the award of procurement contracts are governed exclusively by the Procurement Code." (Citing HRS § 103D-704.)
On June 8, 2012, the circuit court of the first circuit (the court) issued an order granting Asato's motion for summary judgment. As to Asato's standing, the court concluded that Asato was an "interested person" under HRS § 91-7 because he "seeks to obtain a judicial declaration, " and "has brought an action against the agency in circuit court and is asking us to determine whether or not this rule is valid or invalid as it violates statutory provisions or exceeds statutory authority." The court also held that the "three-part test of injury in fact" set forth in Bush v. Watson, 81 Hawai'i 474, 918 P.3d 1130 (1996) "would have been met here."
The court explained that the first prong of the test was met because Asato demonstrated that the Board used HAR § 3-122-66 to "exempt certain procurements from requirements of HRS § 103D-304, where [Asato] assert[ed] that the administrative rule is inconsistent with the statute." The second prong was met "because the actual or threatened injury to [Asato], as a taxpayer, is directly traceable to [the Board's] actions, especially in concerning integrity of contracts using taxpayer funds." Finally, the third prong was met because "a favorable decision would require [the board] to follow the statutory mandates of HRS § 103D-304, and would result or render [sic] HAR § 3-122-66 invalid, which is the direct object of [Asato's] lawsuit."
As to the validity of HAR § 3-122-66, the court explained that "[HRS §] 103D-102(b)(4) lists 11 very specific goods and services exempted from the ambit of 103D, " and therefore "subsection (L) . . . must be read by its plain and obvious meaning -- which is that the policy board must determine by rule, or [the] chief procurement officer must determine in writing, specific classes of goods or services which are available from multiple services, but for which procurement by competitive means is either not practicable nor advantageous to the State[;]" but "HAR § 3-122-66 does not do any such thing." Moreover, the court concluded that HAR § 3-122-66 could not be justified by the need to "fill a gap left in HRS § 103D-304, " because "[t]he plain language of section 304 does not leave any such gaps[.]" Therefore, the court held that "that HAR § 3-122-66 is invalid[.]"
However, the court "declin[ed] to declare any contracts exempted under HAR § 3-122-66 void prior to the date that its order is filed, " because "the plain reading of standing in HRS § 91-7 is that the court shall declare the rule invalid and that is all the court does."
Finally, the court ruled on Asato's request for attorney's fees pursuant to the private attorney general doctrine. It held that all three factors of the private attorney general doctrine, set forth infra, were met, and awarded Asato reasonable attorney's fees and costs.
On August 15, 2012, the court entered a judgment in favor of Asato and against the Board. Then, on September 4, 2012, the court issued its order awarding attorney's fees and costs.
Both Asato and the Board appealed the court's August 15, 2012 judgment. The Board also appealed the court's September 4, 2012 order awarding attorney's fees and costs. On June 27, 2013, Asato filed an application for transfer of the appeal from the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) to this court. This court granted a discretionary transfer on August 1, 2013, pursuant to HRS § 602-58(b) (Supp. 2012). The parties had already filed briefs with the ICA.
In its Opening Brief, the Board argued, inter alia, that (1) Asato did not have standing as a taxpayer because he failed to meet any of the three requirements for taxpayer standing set forth in Iuli, (2) the court erred in concluding that Asato had standing under HRS § 91-7 because Asato did not suffer injury in fact, and (3) that the court erred in concluding that HAR § 3-122-66 was invalid, because the Board was authorized to adopt HAR § 3-122-66 under HRS § 103D-102(b)(4)(L).
Asato filed a cross-appeal, arguing inter alia that the court erred in refusing to grant his requested relief of (1) "declar[ing] as a matter of law that HAR § 3-122-66 has never been valid and has always been void ab initio[, ]" (2) "declar[ing] that every government contract issued under the invalid authority of HAR § 3-122-66 is void ab initio, " and (3) "preliminarily and permanently enjoin[ing] and restrain[ing] the [Board] . . . from using HAR § 3-122-66."
In its Answering Brief on cross-appeal, the Board asserted that "[a] declaration of invalidity is all that is required by HRS § 91-7, " and therefore the court did not err in "refusing to also declare the Rule void ab initio or ''always . . . ultra vires.'" (Emphasis in original.) In the alternative, the Board contended that "even if Asato's position were correct, " he was not entitled to the "voiding of all government contracts entered into pursuant to the Rule."
The Board explained that, first, "while HRS § 91-7 allows a circuit court to hear attacks on a rule's validity, it ''does not give the circuit court jurisdiction to hear a challenge to the application of a rule.'" (Quoting Puana v. Sunn, 69 Haw. 187, 189, 737 P.3d 867, 869 (1987).) (Emphasis in original.) Second, according to the Board, "voiding the contracts would clearly be improper because the parties to the contracts are not parties to this case, " and "the 'absence of interested parties can be raised at any time even by a reviewing court on its own motion.'" (Quoting Marvin v. Pfleuger, 127 Hawai'i 490, 503, 280 P.3d 88, 101 (2012).) (Emphasis in original.)
As to Asato's argument that he was entitled to an injunction, the Board asserted that Asato waived any argument that he was entitled to an injunction because Asato's Opening Brief did not "mention  the standards required to obtain an injunction or  attempt to argue that Asato met such standards." Additionally, the Board noted that Asato "did not even file a motion for a preliminary or permanent injunction." The Board explained that "Main injunction is an extraordinary remedy' which is used when a problem cannot 'be adequately redressed by an action at law.'" (Quoting Morgan v. Planning Dep't, County of Kaua'i, 104 Hawai'i 173, 188, 86 P.3d 982, 997 (2004).) (Emphasis added.) Here, "[b]ecause the [court] declared that [HAR § 3-122-66] was invalid, an injunction would have been superfluous even if Asato had properly requested one."
In his Reply Brief, Asato argued that "injunctive relief is an appropriate and necessary remedy to stop a government agency's statutory violation, " and that "[n]o Hawai'i court has said an injunction is unnecessary to restrain a violation of a statute." Additionally, according to Asato, he had standing as a taxpayer to challenge the individual contracts issued under HAR § 3-122-66, in addition to his challenge based on HRS § 91-7. Also, Asato contended that the Board failed to raise the issue of absent indispensable parties before the court and that "the identification and disposition of affected government contracts could take place on remand or in a separate proceeding[.]" (Citing Haiku Plantations Ass'n v. Lono, 56 Haw. 96, 103, 529 P.2d 1, 6 (1974).) Finally, Asato maintained that the Board's indispensable parties argument also fails because "illegal, and hence, void, contracts are not enforceable against the government agency where the agency violated the procurement law or a public policy."
Asato is entitled to standing in this case pursuant to HRS § 91-7. See Life of the Land, 63 Haw. at 176, 623 P.2d at 441. As related, Asato's action was brought pursuant to HRS § 91-7, which allows "[a]ny interested person" to obtain "a judicial declaration as to the validity of an agency rule." The court determined that Asato had standing under HRS § 91-7. The analysis as to HRS § 91-7 in this opinion differs from that of the court, in that Asato is not required to satisfy the three-part injury in fact test in order to obtain standing as an "interested person".
This court has considered what is required to become "[a]ny interested person" under HRS § 91-7 in two prior cases. In Life of the Land, the plaintiffs challenged the legality of procedures followed by the Land Use Commission in boundary review. Id. at 177, 623 P.2d at 441. The Land Use Commission asserted that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated standing to seek judicial relief. Id. at 171, 623 P.2d at 437-38.
In rejecting the Land Use Commission's argument, this court articulated the general principle that "we have not been inclined to foreclose challenges to administrative determinations through restrictive applications of standing requirements, and see no sound reason for doing so here." Id. at 171, 623 P.2d at 438. Life of the Land further took note of the "expansive trend in defining injury for standing purposes, " as articulated in In re Hawaiian Elec. Co., 56 Haw. 260, 535 P.2d 1102 (1975):
"We note that the trend in American jurisprudence as evidenced by recent decisions of this court and courts across the land, has been to broaden the class of persons that have standing to challenge agency action. The United States Supreme Court has clearly indicated that standing cannot be confined only to those who allege economic harm, nor can it be denied to others simply because many persons share the same purported injury . . . ."
Life of the Land, 63 Haw. at 175, 623 P.2d at 440 (emphasis added) (quoting In re Hawaiian Elec. Co., 56 Haw. at 256 n.l, 535 P.2d at 1105 n.l). This court further observed that " ' [c]omplexities about standing are barriers to justice; in removing the barriers the emphasis should be on the needs of justice.'" Id. at 174 n.8, 623 P.2d at 439 n.8 (quoting E. Diamond Head Ass'n v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals, 52 Haw. 518, 523 n.5, 470 P.2d 796, 799 n.5 (1971)). "Our touchstone[, ]" Life of the Land concluded, therefore "remains , the needs of justice.'" Id. at 176, 623 P.2d at 441.
Having articulated the standing doctrine thus, Life of the Land surmised that the plaintiff organization and its members had a "''stake' in the outcome of the alleged controversy adequate to invoke judicial intervention, even though they [were] neither owners nor adjoining owners of land reclassified by the Land Use Commission . . . ." Id. at 177, 623 P.2d at 441. In applying HRS § 91-7, this court determined that because the plaintiffs had interests that "may have been adversely affected, they undoubtedly [were] ''interested persons [, ]'" for purposes of HRS § 91-7. Id. at 177-78, 623 P.2d at 441. It also noted that plaintiffs had been deemed "aggrieved persons" in a prior case and thus were undoubtedly "interested persons." Id. at 178, 623 P.2d at 441.
In Richard, this court seemingly adopted a more stringent standing requirement for "[a]ny interested person" than was necessarily required in Life of the Land. Instead of concluding simply that the plaintiffs had interests that "may have been adversely affected, " Life of the Land, 63 Haw. at 177-78, 623 P.2d at 441, Richard required that the plaintiffs demonstrate an "injury in fact." Richard, 82 Hawai'i at 253-54, 921 P.2d at 173-74. However, it is not clear how Richard reached this conclusion. Richard states that it was relying on Bush, which, according to Richard, "applied the , injury in fact' test to determine the standing of a party who had filed a declaratory judgment action under HRS § 91-7." Richard, 82 Hawai'i at 253, 921 P.2d at 173. However, Bush does not mention either HRS § 91-7 or "[a]ny interested person", or provide any analysis on why the injury in fact test should apply to "[a]ny interested person[s]." See Bush, 81 Hawai'i at 479, 918 P.2d at 1135.
Thus, it was not evident why "[a]ny interested person" must meet the injury in fact test under Richard, when, in Life of the Land, this court stated that a plaintiff who has interests that "may have been adversely affected, " is "[a]ny interested person." Life of the Land, 63 Haw. at 177-78, 623 P.2d at 441 (emphasis added). Accordingly, in the absence of supportive reasoning, it is difficult to accord governing impact to this aspect of Richard,  particularly where the plain language of HRS § 91-7 and the legislative history of that statute require a different result that is in accord with Life of the Land.
In the context of HRS § 91-7, "[a]ny" means "one selected without restriction." Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 53 (10th ed. 1993). "Interested" is defined as "being affected or involved[.]" Id. at 610. "Persons" is defined in HRS § 91-1 (1993) broadly as "individuals, partnerships, corporations, associations, or public or private organizations of any character other than agencies." Therefore, "[biased on the plain language of [HRS § 91-7], then, [any] interested person[ is one who is, without restriction] 'affected' by or ''involved'" with the validity of an agency rule. AlohaCare v. Ito, 126 Hawai'i 326, 360, 271 P.3d 621, 655 (2012) (Acoba, J., concurring and dissenting). This is consistent with the holding in Life of the Land that a plaintiff who has interests that "may have been adversely affected, " is an "interested person." 63 Haw. at 177-78, 623 P.2d at 441. Under the circumstances of this case, Asato qualifies as an "interested person" because, as a taxpayer challenging a specific public bidding procedure, he may be affected by the validity of a regulation that allegedly allowed an illegal expenditure of public funds. See e.g., Hawai'i's Thousand Friends, 70 Haw. at 282, 768 P.3d at 1298.
Furthermore, in adopting HRS § 91-7, the legislature deviated from the MSAPA with respect to who may be "[a]ny interested person." See Model State Administrative Procedure Act, 1961 Act (U.L.A.) § 7. The MSAPA section setting out a procedure for declaratory judgments as to the validity or applicability of rules provides, as its first sentence, that: "The validity or applicability of a rule may be determined in an action for declaratory judgment in the [court], if it is alleged that the rule, or its threatened application, interferes with or impairs, or threatens to interfere with or impair, the legal rights or privileges of the plaintiff." Id. (emphasis added). In contrast, the first sentence of HRS § 91-7 (a) provides, to reiterate, that "[a]ny interested person may obtain a judicial declaration as to the validity of an agency rule . . . ."
In explaining this departure from the MSAPA, the House Judiciary Committee stated that "[y]our Committee is of the opinion that this section will allow an interested person to seek judicial review on the validity of a rule for the reasons enumerated therein regardless of whether there is an actual case or controversy." H. Stand. Comm. Rep. No. 8, in 1961 House Journal, at 658 (emphasis added). The three-part injury test serves as Hawai'i's counterpart to the Article III "cases and controversies" reguirement. See Bush, 81 Hawai'i at 479, 918 P.2d at 1135; Life of the Land, 63 Haw. at 172, 623 P.2d at 438. See also Mottl, 95 Hawai'i at 396, 23 P.3d at 731 (Acoba, J., concurring, joined by Ramil, J.) ("Our analogue of 'article III' jurisdictional requirements is the three-part injury test."). However, courts of this state are not bound by the U.S. Constitution's Article III, § 2 "cases or controversies" requirement. See Life of the Land, 63 Haw. at 171-72, 623 P.2d at 438.
Accordingly, where the legislative history of HRS § 91-7 indicates that no "actual case or controversy" is required, see 1961 House Journal, at 658, the legislature obviously intended to liberalize standing requirements. As a result, this court should not mandate that the three-part injury test is necessary to bring an action pursuant to HRS § 91-7.
Moreover, it is well-established that the requirements to be "[a]ny interested person" are less than those to be an "aggrieved person" in HRS chapter 91. See AlohaCare, 12 6 Hawai'i at 344, 271 P.3d at 640; Richard, 82 Hawai'i at 253, 921 P.2d at 173; Life of the Land, 63 Haw. at 177-78, 623 P.2d at 441. Indeed, by using the term "[a]ny interested person" rather than "aggrieved [person]", the legislature established a "broader platform" for "persons" bringing actions under HRS § 91-7. Cf. AlohaCare, 126 Hawai'i at 362, 271 P.3d at 657 (Acoba, J., concurring and dissenting) (noting that in the context of HRS § 91-8 (1993), "[a]ny interested person" should be construed differently from an HRS § 91-14 "aggrieved person").
Under our case law, an "aggrieved person" is one who has suffered an injury in fact, see E & J Lounge Operating Co. v. Liguor Comm'n of City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 118 Hawai'i 320, 346 n.35, 189 P.3d 432, 458 n.35 (2008), and therefore, the term "[a]ny interested person" is one who is subject to less stringent standing requirements. Based on the plain language of HRS § 91-7, the legislative history, and the differences between an "interested person" and a "person aggrieved" in Chapter 91, an "interested person" need not show injury in fact in order to bring an action pursuant to HRS § 91-7.
Also, our courts have "broadened standing in actions challenging administrative decisions[, ]" Mottl, 95 Hawai'i at 391, 23 P.3d at 726, and "in cases of public interest under our jurisdiction[, ]" Bush, 81 Hawai'i at 479, 918 P.2d at 1130. As was held in Pele Defense Fund v. Paty, 73 Haw. 578, 837 P.2d 1247 (1992), "[t]his court has adopted a broad view of what constitutes a ''personal stake' in cases in which the rights of the public might otherwise be denied hearing in a judicial form." 73 Haw. at 593, 837 P.2d at 1257 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Life of the Land, explained that "standing requirements should not be barriers to justice." 63 Hawai'i at 174, 623 P.2d 431. In this case, to deny Asato standing as an "interested person" would be to effectively erect a barrier to justice by preventing judicial review of the validity of HAR § 3-122-66.
One of the reasons stated for imposing the injury in fact requirement is to deny standing in cases where the litigant “'seek[s] to do no more than vindicate [his or her] own value preferences through the judicial process[.]'" Richard, 82 Hawai'i at 253, 921 P.2d at 174 (quoting Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 740 (1972)). Instead, the litigant here sought a declaratory judgment as to the validity of a regulation. This type of action cannot be said to be one that vindicates Asato's own value preferences through the judicial process, because if the regulation is indeed invalid, then the action brought by Asato will actually serve to uphold the legislature's intent in the government procurement area.
As noted, HAR § 3-122-66 allowed for the Board to, under certain circumstances, procure professional services where less than three potential qualified persons had been identified, HAR § 3-122-66(a), in contrast with HRS § 103D-304(g) which required that "[t]he selection committee shall rank a minimum of three persons based on the selection criteria and send the ranking to the head of the purchasing agency." In bringing an action to determine whether the promulgation of HAR § 3-122-66 exceeded the scope of the Board's authority outlined in the procurement code, Asato therefore sought to effectuate the purposes behind the procurement code, and accordingly, the public interest. See CARL Corp. v. State, Dep't of Educ, 85 Hawai'i 431, 455, 946 P.2d 1, 25 (1997) (noting that "[i]t is certainly in the public interest that the [State] abide by the procurement rules it has set for itself").
When the legislature enacted the current procurement code, HRS chapter 103D in 1993, it set out a number of intended purposes in the preamble to the act, among which were:
(4) Ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of all persons who deal with the procurement system of the State and counties;
(5) Providing increased economy in procurement activities and maximizing to the fullest extent practicable the purchasing value of public funds;
(6) Fostering effective broad-based competition within the free enterprise system;
(7) Providing safeguards for the maintenance of a procurement system of quality and integrity; and
(8) Increasing public confidence in the procedures followed in public procurement.
1993 Haw. 1st Special Sess. Laws Act 8, § 1 at 38-39. A challenge to the validity of a particular regulation as outside the scope of the procurement code protects the principles under which the HRS chapter 103D was enacted. Specifically, Asato's complaint contended that "[c]ontracts issued in circumvention of the , minimum of three persons' requirement [in] HRS § 103D-304(g) violate . . . the long established public policies . . . including , [p]roviding increased economy in procurement activities and maximizing to the fullest extent practicable the purchasing value of public funds.'" (Quoting HRS § 103-304(g) .) Inasmuch as Asato sought to sustain the objectives of the procurement code, his action was "a case of public interest, " Bush, 81 Hawai'i at 479, 918 P.2d at 1130, and therefore relaxed standing requirements would apply. Therefore, Asato has standing to challenge the validity of HAR § 3-122-66, under HRS § 91-7, as mandated by "the needs of justice." Life of the Land, 63 Haw. at 176, 623 P.2d at 441.
The dissent asserts that "until today, it has been well settled that a plaintiff must satisfy the three-part injury in order to have standing under HRS § 91-7[, ]" dissenting opinion at 16, and that we abandon long standing precedent in reaching a different conclusion. Id. Respectfully, based on the previous cases, the standing issue is squarely presented in this case and previously was not "well settled." In the discussion of standing in the context of HRS § 91-7, this court never actually applied the three-part injury in fact test in Life of the Land or indicated that it must be applied in order for a plaintiff to be an "interested person." 63 Haw. at 177-78, 623 P.2d at 441. While the plaintiffs in that case clearly would have satisfied the test, because they had already been deemed "aggrieved persons, " this court did not require in Life of the Land that plaintiffs allege an injury in fact in order to achieve HRS § 91-7 standing. Id. In Richard, as noted, no reasoning was proffered as to why an "interested person" must meet the injury in fact test, despite the fact that it was the first case to articulate that requirement. 82 Hawai'i at 253-54, 921 P.2d at 173-74. Instead, Richard may have erroneously assumed that the issue had already been resolved in Bush. Id. at 253, 921 P.2d at 173. Thus, the issue of HRS § 91-7 standing was far from "well settled."
Of course, the doctrine of stare decisis must not be treated lightly. See State v. Garcia, 96 Hawai'i 200, 206, 29 P.3d 919, 925 (2001) . However, under these circumstances, we seek to address an issue that was not well-supported or well-settled, and in doing so, review an ancillary holding of Richard, which in any event, was not necessarily intended to set precedent in this area. No reasoned or comprehensive discussion of the meaning of the phrase "[a]ny interested person, " or the legislative history of HRS § 91-7, including its source in the MSAPA, has been had in any of our cases. Standing is a prudential doctrine, see Citizens for Protection of North Kohala Coastline v. County of Hawai'i, 91 Hawai'i 94, 100, 979 P.2d 1120, ...