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State v. Tui

Supreme Court of Hawaii

October 10, 2016

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOSEPH TUI, JR., Respondent/Defendant-Appellee, DIRECTOR OF HEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, STATE OF HAWAI'I, Petitioner/Real Party-in-Interest-Respondent/Appellant.

         CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-15-0000387; CR. NOS. 13-1-0371 & 13-1-0556)

          Debbie L. Tanakaya for petitioner

          Nelson W.S. Goo for respondent Tui, Jr.

          Scott M. Spallina for respondent State

          RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, AND POLLACK, JJ., AND CIRCUIT JUDGE AYABE IN PLACE OF WILSON, J., RECUSED

          OPINION

          McKENNA, J.

         I. Introduction

         This case arises from a dispute regarding whether, under Hawai'i Revised Statutes ("HRS") chapter 704, [1] custody of a defendant deemed unfit to proceed due to mental disease or disorder[2] can be transferred from the Director of Health ("Director") to the Department of Public Safety ("DPS") before a judicial determination that the defendant has regained fitness. The Circuit Court of the First Circuit ("circuit court")[3] answered in the negative, and the Director appealed. The day after the Director's appeal, the circuit court determined that the defendant, Joseph Tui, Jr. ("Tui"), was fit to proceed, and transferred his custody to the DPS.

         The Intermediate Court of Appeals ("ICA") dismissed the appeal as moot, holding that it lacked appellate jurisdiction because custody of Tui had been already been transferred from the Director to the DPS. According to the ICA, the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" exception to the mootness doctrine "d[id] not appear to apply" because the "Director ha[d] not shown that review of [the] adverse trial court decisions could not be obtained through other means, such as a petition for writ of mandamus or prohibition."

         Thus, this case presents the procedural question of whether the ICA erred in not considering the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" exception to the mootness doctrine on this basis. We hold that because there is no requirement that "other means, such as a petition for writ of mandamus or prohibition" be pursued before an appellate court can consider whether the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" exception to the mootness doctrine applies, the ICA erred in not considering the exception. We then consider whether the exception applies, and hold that it does. As the ICA therefore erred in dismissing the appeal, we vacate the ICA's November 9, 2015 "Order Dismissing Appeal For Lack Of Appellate Jurisdiction" and remand the case to the ICA to address the remaining issues on appeal.

         II. Background

         A. Circuit Court Proceedings

         Tui was charged with murdering his cell-mate while incarcerated at Oahu Correctional Community Center ("OCCC"). He was later also charged with assaulting a nurse during a prior hospitalization at the Hawaii State Hospital ("Hospital, " "State Hospital, " or "HSH"). On January 14, 2015, following a hearing, Tui was found unfit to proceed pursuant to HRS § 704-404 (2014).[4]The proceedings against him were suspended until further order of the court, and Tui was committed to the custody of the Director pursuant to HRS § 704-406 (2014) "to be placed at the [] Hospital or an appropriate institution for detention, care, and treatment for so long as such unfitness shall endure."[5] According to the Director, the Hospital was the only such "appropriate institution."

         Twelve days later, on January 26, 2015, the Director filed a motion for an order finding that Tui had regained fitness. The Director also moved for a transfer of Tui's custody from the State Hospital to the DPS. In the motion, the Director asserted there was no clinical indication for Tui to remain in an inpatient hospital unit and that prolonging Tui's stay was endangering patients, staff, himself, and the community at large. In the alternative, the Director requested that another three-panel examination be ordered. The motion was supported by a letter to the court, dated January 23, 2015, from Dr. Allison Garrett ("Dr. Garrett"), Tui's attending psychiatrist at the State Hospital. Dr. Garrett's opinion was that Tui was fit, posed a danger to others, and had a high flight risk.[6]

         At a hearing on February 5, 2015, the circuit court orally denied the State's request for a fitness finding and transfer, but ordered that Tui be re-examined. The circuit court ordered that Tui remain at the Hospital pending a hearing on that re-examination. The circuit court's order appointing three examiners to review Tui's fitness to proceed and penal responsibility was entered on March 5, 2015.[7]

         On March 18, 2015, the Director filed a second motion for transfer of Tui's custody to the DPS. The motion was supported by letter to the court dated March 17, 2015, from William J. May, the Hospital Administrator, indicating that a special Administrative Safety Plan had been implemented for Tui due to his violent behaviors and other events that occurred within hours of his admission to the State Hospital.[8]

         The hearing on the Director's second motion to transfer Tui was held on March 30, 2015. The Director argued that it was not necessary for Tui to remain at the Hospital. She asserted that although the circuit court had earlier found Tui unfit, Tui could be still be transferred to OCCC because his fitness status was uncertain in light of the court's ordering of a three-panel re-examination. The Director argued that the authority to order a three-panel re-examination also comes from HRS § 704-404 and that under that statute, a patient for whom a fitness examination has been ordered does not need to be at the Hospital, but can be held at OCCC.

         Tui argued that the court should await the outcome of the three-panel re-examination.

         The deputy prosecuting attorney then noted that it was the attorney general, representing the Director, that was filing the motion, and that the State of Hawai'i as prosecutor had "not seen this avenue being taken to get somebody that's still legally unfit back into the general population." The prosecutor further stated that what the Director was requesting was "fraught with risks, " and noted "that's why the State or the prosecutor's office is not joining in on this motion."

         The circuit court then denied the motion, noting that Tui had already been found unfit and that the re-examination was therefore no longer an initial examination of fitness pursuant to HRS § 704-404. The court ruled that pending a ruling that he had regained fitness, as an unfit person, Tui could not be held at OCCC. The ...


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