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Hyland v. Gonzales

Supreme Court of Hawaii

March 2, 2017

LANRIC HYLAND, Petitioner/Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
RONALD GONZALES and STEWART MAEDA, in his official capacity as Hawai'i County Clerk, Respondents/Respondents-Appellees.

         CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-15-0000053; APPEAL NO. 14-01)

          Robert H. Thomas Mark M. Murakami Veronica A. Nordyke for petitioner

          Patricia Ohara, Valri Lei Kunimoto and Ewan C. Raynerfor County of Hawaiʻi Board of Registration

          Molly A. Stebbins, Melody Parker, Christopher P. Schlueter and Laureen L. Martin for Stewart Maeda, in his official capacity as Hawaiʻi County Clerk

          RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ.

          OPINION OF THE COURT

          POLLACK, J.

         Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 11-25 provides procedures for the challenging of a person's voter registration status. When a challenge is brought prior to the day of an election, HRS § 11-25(a) applies, which allows a voter to challenge "the right of a person to be or to remain registered as a voter in any precinct" through a written challenge. The challenge must set forth the grounds upon which it is based and be delivered to the county clerk of the respective county; the clerk is required to promptly investigate and rule on the challenge. HRS § 11-25(a). In cases where the clerk rules on a challenge prior to election day, appeals may be made from the clerk's ruling to the local board of registration pursuant to HRS § 11-26(b). Such appeals must be brought within ten days of service of the adverse decision. HRS § 11-26(b).

         The petitioner in this case, Lanric Hyland, appealed from a county clerk decision to the local board of registration for the County of Hawai'i (the "local board"). The local board determined that Hyland's appeal was due on October 14, 2014, based in part on its determination that October 13, 2014, was a holiday and tolled his appeal deadline for that day. Although the local board determined that Hyland mailed his appeal within ten days of service of the county clerk's decision, the board ruled that Hyland's appeal was untimely because the board did not receive his appeal until after October 14, 2014. Thus, the local board concluded that it was without jurisdiction to review the appeal. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed the local board's determination that Hyland's appeal was not timely because the board did not receive the appeal within ten days of service of the county clerk's decision. However, the ICA also determined that Hyland did not mail his letter within the ten-day filing period because the second Monday in October is not a Hawai'i state holiday.

         We hold that the board had jurisdiction to consider the merits of Hyland's appeal, and we also determine that the second Monday in October--recognized by the federal government as Columbus Day--is a holiday for purposes of the computation of time as to when an act is to be done under HRS § 1-29. Accordingly, we vacate the decisions of the ICA and the local board and remand the case to the local board for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Hyland challenged the voter registration of Ronald Gonzales in District 9 by filing a challenge with the Office of the County Clerk of the County of Hawai'i (the "county clerk"). In a letter mailed on October 2, 2014, the county clerk determined that Gonzales was properly registered in District 9.

         Hyland appealed the county clerk's decision to the local board by a letter dated and sent by registered mail on October 14, 2014. Hyland's letter noted that the county clerk's decision was served on October 2, 2014, and that his appeal was timely filed because, although the tenth day was Sunday, October 12, the appeal did not need to be postmarked until Tuesday, October 14, as Monday, October 13, was a federal holiday.

          Gonzales filed objections to the jurisdiction of the local board, arguing that the appeal was untimely because it was not received by the local board until October 16. Gonzales argued the following with regard to the filing deadline:

The Clerk issued his decision on October 1, 2014, and completed service via certified mail on October 2, 2014. Counting forward, the tenth day was Sunday, October 12, 2014. Since the Clerk served his decision by mail, Hawaii Rules of Civil Procedure ("HRCP") Rule 6(e) was triggered. This section enlarged the original 10-day period by two days, for a total of 12 days. The twelfth day fell on Tuesday, October 14, 2014. This was the deadline for the filing of the appeal.

         Gonzales contended that because October 14, 2014, was not a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, there was no provision in any applicable law that allows for an extension beyond October 14, 2014. Gonzales asserted that the local board's consideration of Hyland's untimely appeal would infringe on his due process rights. Hyland filed a reply arguing that Gonzales misinterpreted when the appeal was filed, and he maintained that the appeal was filed on the date of mailing--October 14, 2014.

         A prehearing conference was held before the local board.[1] At the prehearing conference, Gonzales raised his objections to the board's jurisdiction and the board heard arguments. At the conclusion of the hearing, the local board decided that the appeal was untimely. The board subsequently issued its decision in its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order Dismissing Appeal, dated January 9, 2015.

         The board found that the appeal from the county clerk decision was filed on October 16, 2014. The board concluded that the appeal was untimely because the mailing of the appeal by registered mail did not constitute "filing." The board relied on Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR) § 3-172-43(a), which provides,

An appeal of the clerk's ruling shall be made in writing by filing a notice of appeal with the chairperson of the board of registration within ten days of the service of the clerk's decision.

         Quoting Black's Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009), the board reasoned that "filing" means delivery of legal documents "to the court clerk or record custodian for placement into the official record":

Haw. Admin. R. ยง 3-172-43(a) requires that an appeal be made in writing by "filing a notice of appeal" with the chairperson of the Board within ten days of service of the clerk's decision. The common understanding of the word "file" means to "deliver a legal document to the court clerk or record ...

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