Peer News LLC v. City & County of Honolulu

January 27, 2015

Civil Beat, published by Peer News LLC, is an investigative and watchdog journalism outlet focused on public affairs reporting in Hawaii. Civil Beat was denied a request for the names and disciplinary information of 12 Honolulu Police Department officers who were allegedly suspended but not discharged. When Peer News went to court, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) intervened in the suit in support of the HPD. The trial court ordered that the records be released. In an appeal brought by SHOPO, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed an amicus brief arguing that state law recognizes that the only viable and reasonable method of protecting the public's interests is to open up government records to scrutiny.

Hawaii high court upholds high standards for open proceedings in murder case

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Secret Courts | News | July 17, 2014
July 17, 2014

The Supreme Court of Hawaii this week in Oahu Publications Inc. v. The Honorable Karen Ahn upheld a strong public right of access to criminal proceedings and announced a series of procedures to protect that right. The ruling comes after a trial court judge held five secret sessions and sealed the transcripts of those sessions during a high-profile murder trial.

The decision stressed that judicial proceedings are presumptively open. The high court held that, in order to close a courtroom or seal transcripts, a judge must show on the record what compelling interest would be harmed by public disclosure, the substantial risk to that harm, and any alternatives to public access that the court considered but found insufficiently protective.

Judge unseals transcripts in Hawaii murder trial

Jamie Schuman | Secret Courts | News | March 3, 2014
March 3, 2014

The Hawaii judge who closed the courtroom multiple times during the last day of a high-profile murder trial has unsealed the transcripts from that proceeding in response to a motion by The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now.

Police misconduct files should be public, Hawaii judge says

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | February 11, 2014
February 11, 2014

A judge in Hawaii has ordered the Honolulu Police Department to release officer disciplinary records under the state's public records act.

Civil Beat, a nonprofit news website, requested 12 officers' disciplinary records after publishing an investigative series on secrecy surrounding police misconduct.

Hawaii's police union intervened in the case to argue officers had a privacy interest in protecting their records from disclosure. Hawaii's public records law has an exemption for police disciplinary records when the misconduct does not result in the officer being fired.

Hawaii news organizations fight to unseal transcripts and keep courtroom open

Latara Appleby | Secret Courts | News | September 11, 2013
September 11, 2013

Two Hawaii new organizations are asking the state's Supreme Court to unseal transcript portions from a high-profile murder case and to prevent a judge there from closing her courtroom in the future.

Hawaii shield law will expire after lawmakers unable to reconcile competing bills

Jack Komperda | Reporter's Privilege | News | May 3, 2013
May 3, 2013

Just five years after passing its groundbreaking media shield law, Hawaii lawmakers have effectively killed any hopes of adopting a permanent version of the law, which is set to expire next month.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate passed differing versions of the law this week that would protect journalists from disclosing confidential sources and notes. With the Legislature set to adjourn this week, the disagreement between the House and Senate ensures the current shield law will expire on June 30.

Hawaii lawmakers committee pass draft of bill that weakens state reporter shield law

Jack Komperda | Reporter's Privilege | News | April 26, 2013
April 26, 2013

A panel of Hawaii lawmakers on Thursday approved a draft that severely limits the soon-expiring state reporter shield law.

The most current version of the bill -- seen as a compromise between House and Senate versions -- removes protections for free newspapers, expands the circumstances under which law enforcement authorities can subpoena journalists’ notes and excludes protections for bloggers.

Hawaii lawmakers set to resume deliberations on state shield law

Jack Komperda | Reporter's Privilege | News | April 22, 2013
April 22, 2013

Hawaii lawmakers are expected to meet again this week to work on reconciling competing versions of a bill to make the state’s reporter shield law permanent.

H.B. 622 was originally drafted to remove the law's June 30 expiration date. But lawmakers in both the state House and Senate passed amended versions of the bill limiting who can take advantage of the privilege.

Steven Tyler Act stalls in Hawaii legislature

Lilly Chapa | Newsgathering | News | March 21, 2013
March 21, 2013

AP Photo

Steven Tyler, left, and Mick Fleetwood, right, testify about an anti-paparazzi bill. Tyler's lawyer, Dina LaPolt, center, drafted the bill.


The Hawaii anti-paparazzi bill pushed by rocker Steven Tyler has lost momentum in the state House of Representatives after flying through the Senate earlier this month.

Anti-paparazzi bill pushed by Steven Tyler approved by Hawaii Senate committee

Lilly Chapa | Newsgathering | News | February 13, 2013
February 13, 2013

The Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee approved an anti-paparazzi bill that would allow people who are photographed on their private property or while taking part in “personal or family activities” to sue the photographer for invasion of privacy.