Yesterday, June 18, 2015, the HAWSCT issued an opinion in Doe v. Attorney General, SCWC 13-0005700 (known as Lawson v. Attorney General in the ICA case), holding that a decision made by the Attorney General related to the impact of the Hawaii sex offender registration statute on an out-of-state registered sex offender led to an appealable decision over which the circuit court had jurisdiction.
The underlying case arose after Doe was convicted, in Washington, of a offense that required him to register as a sex offender in that state. Because he wanted to vacation in Hawaii, Doe emailed the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center (an agency of the Department of the Attorney General) to determine the relevant Hawaii registration requirement, whether he was required to register during his trip to Hawaii, and determine how to obtain an exemption. After receiving HCJDC’s response, Doe later sent a letter to the Attorney General asking for an exemption. The Attorney General (through HCJDC) responded that he would be required to register as a sex offender.
Doe appealed the decision letter. The Attorney General took the position that Doe was required to first register, and then petition for the registration to be terminated. The circuit court agreed, and concluded that Doe had not followed the proper statutory procedure. Because he didn’t follow the proper procedure, the circuit court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal since Doe’s communications with the Attorney General were not “a contested proceeding.” Slip. Op. at 8. The ICA affirmed.
Doe, appearing pro se, argued that the ICA erred in affirming the circuit court’s dismissal of his agency appeal based on lack of jurisdiction. According to Doe, the Attorney General’s letter decision resulting from the communication between himself and the Attorney General constituted an appealable administrative decision. After discussing the Hawaii sex offender registry statute, the HAWSCT held that Doe’s email constituted a petition to the Attorney General for a declaration as to whether he was required to register as a sex offender in Hawaii under the statute. According to the court, the communications between Doe and the Attorney General resulted in an appealed decision over which the circuit court had jurisdiction.
The court further held that the Attorney General’s position that it cannot determine whether someone is a “covered offender” under Hawaii sex offender statute until after the person physically arrives in Hawaii is wrong.
The HAWSCT’s full unanimous opinion (authored by Justice McKenna) is available here.