ALL AROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH: Sometime you've gotta wonder what's up when it comes to our state judiciary.
No, we're not talking about the scandal plagued sheriff’s division or the "we be's" who populate the offices and act as if they own the process, if not the judges themselves. No, it's not the probation department that thinks that "field work" is going hunting and fishing on weekends.
If you want to know what plaguing our state's courts just look at the actual rulings of some of the men and women wearing the robes.
Today's decision by the newly reinvigorated Hawai`i Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) overturning 5th Circuit Court Judge Randall Valenciano's ruling that allowed the Republican party to "replace" a candidate for the 14th House District who intentionally filed and withdrew just before the deadline, is a case in point detailing how politics often rules the courthouse roost.
The problem is that rather than sort out what the law really is trying to say, they simply shirked that responsibility and disqualified the original candidate for not completing his application.
As Mina Morita- the one who then held the 14th district seat at the time and eventually won reelection- said at the time:
Simply put, Hamman did not file nomination papers for the District 14 House race by the close of the filing deadline because he withdrew on July 19. And, there was no way he could because he filed his nomination papers for the Senate race and a person cannot run in more than one race. The Republicans did not have a candidate qualified for the ballot for the District 14 House race at the close of the filing deadline, therefore, no candidate vacancy exists to allow Harry R. Williams to run as a legitimate candidate.
We went a little further in explaining the way the law leaves room for interpretation, citing Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS) 11-117 and 118 as well as Hawai`i Administrative Rule (HAR) Chapter 3-173-1 to explain the mess and in addition mentioned that it wasn't the first time the ambiguity in the law had caused a musical chairs brouhaha at the filing deadline. Two years previously, in the case of Kirk Caldwell, the same lack of clarity squeezed him out of candidacy in any election as the "resign to run" law did its dirty work.
We won't bore you by repeating the technical explanation here again, but we will say that in between the Caldwell and Morita fiascoes, the legislature sat around with their thumbs up their butts, kow-towing to the churches, who had their noses in proximate climes over civil unions.
And as if to reiterate that inaction isn't just a mistake at the Capitol but is a carefully planned result of the Hawai`i legislative committee system, remedial bills weren't even scheduled for a hearing during the session following the Morita-Hamman mess.
Now we haven't seen the decision yet, but if the press reports are correct, the ICA didn't bother to tell the legislature to get its act together and clarify the law - as the appellate courts are wont to do on occasion- so we don't have to go through this again in 2012. Instead they decided the case based on a lack of sufficiency in the application itself, virtually saying "we won't touch this political football" even to say the law is unclear on process thus leaving the matter flapping in the wind.
So when the legislature fails to act again this January and the filing deadline comes around next year, expect yet another debacle consisting of candidates waving competing sections of law at each other and the chief elections officer. And don't worry- we'll be here with the distinctly unsatisfying chance to once again say "we told you so."