ASSOCIATION OF APARTMENT OWNERS OF DISCOVERY BAY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
RALPH MITCHELL, Defendant-Appellant, and JOHN DOES 1-10; JANE DOES 1-10; DOE CORPORATIONS 1-10; DOE GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES 1-10; DOE ENTITIES 1-10, Defendants
NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAIT REPORTS AND PACIFIC REPORTER
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT (CIVIL NO. 10-1-1871-08)
Lila Barbara Kanae, for Defendant-Appellant.
Carlos D. Perez-Mesa, (Motooka Yamamoto & Revere), for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Fujise, Presiding Judge, Leonard and Ginoza, JJ.
SUMMARY DISPOSITION ORDER
In this appeal challenging the award of declaratory and injunctive relief, apartment owner Defendant-Appellant Ralph Mitchell (Mitchell) appeals from the February 16, 2011 Judgment entered by the Circuit Court of the First Circuit (Circuit Court) in favor of the Association of Apartment Owners of Discovery Bay (Discovery Bay).
On appeal, Mitchell argues that the Circuit Court improperly granted Discovery Bay's Motion for Summary Judgment (MSJ), erroneously denied his Motion for Reconsideration, and consequently abused its discretion in awarding $10, 73 0.92 in attorneys' fees and costs to Discovery Bay.
However, on February 10, 2014, Mitchell notified this court that he has recently sold his apartment in the condominium. Thus, it appears that Mitchell no longer has an ownership interest in the condominium project out of which this case arises.
"Courts may not decide moot questions or abstract propositions of law." Queen Emma Found, v. Tatibouet, 123 Hawai'i 500, 506, 236 P.3d 1236, 1242 (App. 2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "The doctrine seems appropriate where events subsequent to the judgment of the trial court have so affected the relations between the parties that the two conditions for justiciability relevant on appeal -- adverse interest and effective remedy -- have been compromised." Id. at 507, 236 P.3d at 1243 (citation omitted; block quote format altered). Mootness is an issue of subject matter jurisdiction, which is reviewed de novo. Id. at 506, 236 P.3d 1242. Therefore, we must first consider whether this appeal is moot.
In Tatibouet, this court held that the defendants' challenge to the circuit court's grant of declaratory relief was moot because "the controversy underlying [the fee holder's] complaint for declaratory judgment and the circuit court's grant of declaratory relief -- whether Defendants are entitled to convert the Hotel into a condominium under the Lot 3 0-A Amended Lease -- is no longer a present, live controversy" id. at 508, 236 P.3d at 1244, where defendant Tatibouet had transferred his leasehold interest in the property to a third party and the defendant development company had been administratively, terminated. Id.
We further reasoned:
A decision by this court overturning the circuit court's grant of declaratory relief on the merits would not provide Defendants with an effective remedy regarding their dispute with the Foundation over their entitlement under the Lot 30-A Amended Lease to convert the Hotel into a condominium. Even if we were to adopt Defendants' interpretation of the Lot 3 0-A Amended Lease, they no longer have the ability to carry out their plans to convert the Hotel into a condominium. Thus, a decision by this court on the merits of the circuit court's interpretation of the Lot 30-A Amended Lease and the circuit court's grant of declaratory relief would be an advisory opinion on abstract propositions of law.
Applying this analysis to the instant case, we similarly conclude that Mitchell's appeal is moot in light of the fact that Mitchell has since sold his property at Discovery Bay to a third party as of February 10, 2014. Thus, the controversy underlying Discovery Bay's complaint -- whether Mitchell obtained the requisite twenty-five percent of owners' signatures and is entitled to hold his special meeting seeking the removal of one or more Board Members -- is no longer a present, live controversy. See Tatibouet, 123 Hawai'i at 508, 236 P.3d at 1244; Like the ...