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Uyeda v. Schermer

Supreme Court of Hawaii

March 19, 2019

CAROLYN UYEDA and JAY UYEDA, Respondents/Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
EVAN SCHERMER, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.

          CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-16-0000200; CIVIL NO. 3SS 15-1-153K)

          Walter J. Rodby for Petitioner

          Lisa Strandtman for Respondents

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

          OPINION

          WILSON, J.

         Respondents/Plaintiffs-Appellees Carolyn and Jay Uyeda ("the Uyedas") sought summary judgment and an injunction against Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant Evan Schermer ("Schermer") in the District Court of the Third Circuit ("district court") based on the testimony and findings of fact in an earlier district court civil case in which they prevailed against Schermer. The district court granted their motion for summary judgment and their petition for injunction. The Intermediate Court of Appeals ("ICA") affirmed with regard to Carolyn Uyeda and Schermer sought certiorari. Petitioner Schermer argues that the judicially noticed facts that formed the basis of the judgment and injunction against him were improperly admitted because the previous case had a lower burden of proof. We granted his application for certiorari, and now vacate the judgments against him.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Settlement Agreement

         On September 22, 2014, the Uyedas and Schermer entered into a Mutual Settlement and Release Agreement ("Settlement Agreement") for the purpose of resolving all claims in a civil case numbered 3SS 14-1-134K ("Case 134"). In the Settlement Agreement, the Uyedas and Schermer agreed that neither party would directly or indirectly contact the other or come within 100 yards of the other for three years, and declared that all records of interactions between Carolyn Uyeda and Evan Schermer had been destroyed or relinquished. In paragraph 7 of the Settlement Agreement, the parties agreed that breach of the agreement could result in an action for permanent injunction:

7. Should any Party violate the terms of this agreement, the non-breaching Party(ies) shall have the right to file an action for a permanent injunction against harassment against the other Party(ies) in the District Court of the Third Circuit, North and South Kona Division, State of Hawaii. Upon proof that the other Party(ies) has/have violated either paragraph 1 or 2 of this Agreement, the prevailing Party(ies) shall be entitled to a permanent injunction against harassment against the other Party(ies) for the longest term that the Court can grant, in addition to reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

         The parties also agreed that in the event of a breach of the Settlement Agreement, each could bring an action for breach of contract against the other to seek general and punitive damages. Case 134 was dismissed with prejudice by the district court.

         B. District Court Proceedings

         On October 25, 2015, the Uyedas submitted to the district court a Petition for Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Order and for Injunction Against Harassment against Schermer in a second civil case, numbered 3SS 15-1-153K ("Case 153" or "the present case"). The Uyedas submitted a copy of the Settlement Agreement under seal as an exhibit attached to the petition. The judge signed a temporary restraining order ("TRO") on October 27, 2015; on November 10, 2015, the TRO was extended to December 15, 2015. On October 27, 2015, the Uyedas filed a third civil action against Schermer in district court, numbered 3RC 15-1-639K, ("Case 639" or "the breach of contract case") alleging a breach of the Settlement Agreement. The present case arises from Case 153.

         Cases 153 and 639 both came before the district court on December 15, 2015.[1] A bench trial was held on Case 639, the breach of contract case. During the trial, the court heard testimony from Schermer and Carolyn Uyeda, and received into evidence exhibits purporting to show Schermer's alleged violations. The court also took judicial notice of the Settlement Agreement, which was sealed by the court in Case 134. The court found that Schermer breached the Settlement Agreement by putting an advertisement in the newspaper wishing Carolyn Uyeda a happy birthday, sending a message to Carolyn Uyeda through Facebook, and attempting to contact Carolyn Uyeda by sending a message to a third party, her stepbrother Flavio Nucci, through Facebook. The court found in favor of the Uyedas and awarded them nominal damages of $1.00, plus costs and fees.

         With regard to Case 153, in which the Uyedas sought an injunction against harassment, the district court set a March 8, 2016 trial date and extended the TRO to that date. On January 7, 2016, the Uyedas filed a motion for summary judgment. The Uyedas requested that, in considering their motion, the court take judicial notice of the Settlement Agreement, which was filed under seal in Case 134, and the court's own findings in Case 639 regarding the birthday advertisement and the Facebook messages. The Uyedas argued that Hawai'i Rules of Evidence (HRE) Rule 201 permitted the court to take judicial notice of its findings of fact in Case 639. HRE Rule 201 allows for judicial notice of adjudicative facts:

(a) Scope of rule. This rule governs only judicial notice of adjudicative facts.
(b) Kinds of facts. A judicially noticed fact must be one not subject to reasonable dispute in that it is either (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court, or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.
(c) When discretionary. A court may take judicial notice, whether requested or not.
(d) When mandatory. A court shall take judicial notice if requested by a party and supplied with the necessary information.
(e) Opportunity to be heard. A party is entitled upon timely request to an opportunity to be heard as to the propriety of taking judicial notice and the tenor of the matter noticed. In the absence of prior notification, the request may be made after judicial notice has been taken.
(f) Time of taking notice. Judicial notice may be taken at any stage of the proceeding.
(g) Instructing jury. In a civil proceeding, the court shall instruct the jury to accept as conclusive any fact judicially noticed. In a criminal case, the court shall instruct the jury that it may, but is not required to, accept as conclusive any fact judicially noticed.

         Schermer submitted a memorandum in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, arguing that his alleged conduct did not constitute harassment, and that the court could not rely on its own findings in Case 639 because a permanent injunction against harassment cannot be issued without a judicial finding that harassment has been proved by clear and convincing evidence, whereas the standard of proof in a breach of contract case is only preponderance of the evidence. Schermer also filed his own motion requesting either summary judgment, dismissal for failure to state a claim, or dismissal for lack of jurisdiction.

         Schermer contended that because the Uyedas' claims arose from an intimate relationship, jurisdiction was exclusively with the Family Court of the Third Circuit ("family court").

         At a hearing on the motions held on January 19, 2016, the district court granted the Uyedas' motion for summary judgment and granted them a permanent injunction for three years. The court took judicial notice of the Settlement Agreement and "the entire record and files in 3RC 15-1-639K, including the testimony of Carolyn Uyeda, Evan Schermer, and the entire record and file and entire testimony of all parties in that case[, ]" and found that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to the Uyedas' claims or defenses. The court found "by clear and convincing evidence that harassment exists for purposes of the instant action." Among the authorities the court cited were paragraph 7 of the Settlement Agreement, HRE Rule 201, "which allows Court to take judicial notice of adjudicative facts, specifically in case 3RC 15-1-639K and 3SS 14-1-134K," and Hawai'i Revised Statutes (HRS) § 604-10.5. HRS § 604-10.5 (2016) gives courts the power to enjoin harassment, as defined:

(a) For the purposes of this section:
"Course of conduct" means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over any period of time evidencing a continuity of purpose.
"Harassment" means:
(1) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the threat of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; or
(2) An intentional or knowing course of conduct directed at an individual that seriously alarms or disturbs consistently or continually bothers the individual and serves no legitimate purpose; provided that such course of conduct would ...

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