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State v. Joshua

Supreme Court of Hawaii

October 16, 2017

STATE OF HAWAI'I, By Its Office of Consumer Protection, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DEBORAH ANN HOKULANI JOSHUA, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant, and RONALD R. RABANG and MATTHEW G. AIELLO, Respondents/Defendants-Appellees.

         CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-16-0000800; CIV. NO. 08-1-1-0240)

          Deborah Ann Hokulani Joshua petitioner pro se

          James F. Evers for respondent State of Hawai'i

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

          OPINION

          McKENNA, J.

         I. Introduction

         Deborah Ann Hokulani Joshua ("Joshua"), a self-represented litigant, seeks review of the Intermediate Court of Appeals' ("ICA") February 16, 2017 "Order Granting December 12, 2016 Motion to Dismiss Appeal for Lack of Appellate Jurisdiction." We hold the ICA did not err in dismissing Joshua's appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction because Joshua's November 6, 2016 third notice of appeal was untimely, and because we lack jurisdiction to review the dismissal of Joshua's second notice of appeal because she did not seek certiorari review of that dismissal.

         The dismissal of Joshua's June 16, 2015 second notice of appeal under the circumstances of this case, however, causes us to reexamine the impact on access to justice of our previous mandate that appeals be dismissed when a purported circuit court final judgment fails to meet appealability requirements. See Jenkins v. Cades Schutte Fleming & Wright, 76 Hawai'i 115, 119, 869 P.2d 1334, 1338 (1994) (per curiam). Pursuant to our supervisory powers under Hawaii Revised Statutes ("HRS") § 602-4 (2016), [1] we reinforce our advisement in Bailey v. Duvauchelle, 135 Hawai'i 482, 492, 353 P.3d 1024, 1034 (2015), that when circuit courts intend their rulings to be final and appealable, they must enter appealable final judgments. To more fully address the concerns we expressed in Bailey, however, and as more fully discussed in Section IV(C) below, we prospectively hold that when a party to a circuit court civil case timely appeals a purportedly appealable final judgment later determined not to meet Jenkins requirements, rather than dismiss the appeal, the ICA must temporarily remand the case to the circuit court "in aid of its jurisdiction" pursuant to HRS § 602-57(3) (2016)[2] for entry of an appealable final judgment with a direction to the circuit court to supplement the record on appeal with the final judgment. This holding is consistent with our recent opinion in Waikiki v. Ho'omaka Vill. Ass'n of Apartment Owners, 140 Hawai'i 197, 204, 398 P.3d 786, 793 (2017) (per curiam), in which we held that under the circumstances of that case, the ICA should have exercised its authority under HRS § 602-57(3) to remand for entry of an appealable final judgment instead of dismissing the appeal.

         II. Background

         On February 4, 2008 the State of Hawai'i Office of Consumer Protection ("OCP") filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit ("circuit court")[3] seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against Joshua and two other defendants for their involvement in a foreclosure rescue or equity-stripping scheme. Because Joshua did not answer the complaint, the circuit court entered default against her on March 10, 2008. The other two defendants each answered the complaint and filed cross-claims against Joshua.

         On September 4, 2008, the circuit court issued a permanent injunction and default judgment against Joshua, enjoining her from participating in activities that involved real property in foreclosure or risk of foreclosure or that had a lien or encumbrance charged against it because of nonpayment of association fees or maintenance fees. The two other defendants entered into a stipulated permanent injunction and order. Final judgment was entered against all three defendants on May 14, 2009. No party appealed.

         Six years later, on January 8, 2015, the circuit court[4]entered its "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order of Contempt and Order Modifying Permanent Injunction, " finding Joshua in willful contempt of the permanent injunction and ordering modification of the injunction ("modification order"). On January 23, 2015, Joshua filed a notice of appeal from the modification order, in CAAP-15-0000046. On April 14, 2015, the ICA dismissed Joshua's appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the circuit court had not entered an appealable final judgment incorporating the modification order.

         After this dismissal, on June 8, 2015, OCP filed a motion requesting that the circuit court enter an amended final judgment and permanent injunction, and attached its proposed document as Exhibit "A." Before the circuit court ruled, Joshua filed her second notice of appeal on June 16, 2015, in CAAP-15-0000915. Joshua indicated that she was appealing OCP's amended final judgment and permanent injunction. The circuit court then granted OCP's motion, and entered an amended final judgment and permanent injunction on September 25, 2015 ("amended final judgment"). The amended final judgment cited to Rule 58 of the Hawai'i Rules of Civil Procedure ("HRCP") (2010) and indicated that it was "intended to be a final judgment for all purposes, including appeal."

         On June 28, 2016, however, the ICA entered a five-page order dismissing Joshua's second appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction due to the lack of an appealable final judgment meeting Jenkins requirements. The ICA provided a detailed explanation of the deficiencies in the amended final judgment. The ICA explained that the amended judgment did not specifically identify the claim or claims on which the court intended to enter judgment in favor of OCP and against Joshua, failed to enter judgment on OCP's claims against the other two defendants, and did not expressly enter judgment on or state that the cross-claims against Joshua were dismissed.

         The next day, OCP filed a motion requesting that the circuit court enter a second amended final judgment and permanent injunction to address shortcomings in the amended final judgment identified by the ICA. On October 6, 2016, the circuit court entered a second amended final judgment ("second amended judgment") and permanent injunction. Thirty-four days later, on November 9, 2016, Joshua filed her third notice of appeal, indicating she was appealing the circuit court's September 28, 2016 minute order granting OCP's June 29, 2016 motion requesting that it enter a second amended judgment.

         On December 12, 2016, OCP filed a motion to dismiss Joshua's third notice of appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction based on untimeliness, as it had been filed more than thirty days after the second amended judgment. Joshua submitted payment of $315 for this third notice of appeal, [5] but she did not file an opposition to OCP's motion to dismiss.

         On February 16, 2017, the ICA ruled on the motion to dismiss. The ICA noted Joshua had failed to file a memorandum in response to OCP's motion. Citing Hawai'i Rules of Appellate Procedure ("HRAP") Rule 3(c)(2) (2015), [6] the ICA construed Joshua's third notice of appeal to be from the October 6, 2016 second amended judgment rather than from the September 28, 2016 minute order. Because Joshua's third notice of appeal was not filed within thirty days of the October 6, 2016 second amended judgment as required by HRAP Rule 4(a) (1) (2016), [7] however, the ICA granted OCP's motion, and dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction.

         Joshua filed an application for writ of certiorari alleging error in the ICA's jurisdictional ruling. We accepted certiorari to address the issue of appellate jurisdiction.

         III. Standard of Review

         "The existence of jurisdiction is a question of law that we review de novo under the right/wrong standard." Lester v. Rapp, 85 Hawai'i 238, 241, 942 P.2d 502, 505 (1997) (citation omitted).

         "A court always has jurisdiction to determine whether it has jurisdiction over a particular case." State v. Brandimart, 68 Haw. 495, 496, 720 P.2d 1009, 1010 (1986).

          IV. Discussion

         A. Background of the Jenkins separate judgment requirement and the requirement for dismissal of appeals for lack of appellate jurisdiction

         Pursuant to Hawai'i Constitution article VI, section 1, our appellate courts have "appellate jurisdiction as provided by law." HRS § 641-1 (2016) governs appeals ...


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