Your ACLU, fighting injustice in Hawai‘i courts & communities!

ACLU lawsuits make the news - and we love seeing civil liberties in the spotlight - but we go to court as a last resort. The majority of civil liberties complaints we take on (out of about a thousand confidential inquiries a year!) are resolved quietly, through a conversation or administrative remedies. It is only after these remedies are rejected that we take a case public and to the courts, powered by your donations and the pro-bono help of Hawai‘i's best & brightest lawyers. To contact the ACLU-HI legal program, you can write to, fax to (808) 522-5909, or write P.O. Box 3410, Honolulu, HI 96801. To learn more, see the top tab "Need Legal Help?" for info.
STATEWIDE VICTORYState improves, clarifies permitting rules: The ACLU and Chun Kerr attorney Alexandra Rosenblatt  filed - and quickly settled - a 1st Amendment lawsuit in 2014 challenging opaque and restrictive rules governing demonstrations in public spaces like the Hawai‘i State Capitol Rotunda. See our First Amendment Toolkit for specific updates!

STATEWIDE VICTORY • Protecting "Open Records" process: Filed a lawsuit in 2013 challenging the Department of Public Safety’s failure to comply with Hawai‘i’s “open records” law; the Court granted the ACLU’s motion for summary judgment and ordered the Department to produce the records, and the case settled earlier this year.

STATEWIDE VICTORY • Access to legal counsel: Along with the Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice and the Legal Aid Society (and with substantial assistance from the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, part of the Public Justice Center), filed an amicus brief in a case involving the appointment of counsel for parents in abuse and neglect proceedings. In early 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that courts must appoint counsel for indigent parents in these proceedings, and the State violated the parent’s right to due process by not appointing her an attorney earlier.
STATEWIDE VICTORY • Search and seizure: After four years of litigation, including a successful appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, made inroads to obtain justice for clients who had federal agents enter – and refuse to leave – their home.

STATEWIDE, ONGOING • Privacy and bail: With the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project and Georgette Yaindl of Preventive Law Hawai‘i, filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus with the Hawai‘i Supreme Court in 2013 challenging the imposition of random drug testing as a condition of bail. We continue to look for similar cases to fully litigate the issue.

STATEWIDE, ONGOING • Prison conditions: With the Human Rights Defense Center and Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, we continue to litigate a case against the State of Hawai‘i and the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America arising out of the murder of a Hawai‘i prisoner at a CCA facility in Arizona.

STATEWIDE • Voting rights: Filed a lawsuit on behalf of Puna residents denied the right to vote in the wake of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Iselle because they were physically unable to reach the polls. Although the Hawai‘i Supreme Court dismissed the case, we plan to work with the Legislature in the 2015 session to pass measures protecting the right to vote, even during a natural disaster.

STATEWIDE • Separation of church and state: Challenged the Preschool Open Doors program for lacking safeguards to ensure that public money is not used for religious instruction. After receiving additional information from the Department of Health and Human Services about the practices of the program, the ACLU voluntarily dismissed the case.

Hawai‘i Island VICTORY, ONGOING • TRO granted in county "panhandling" case: Won a Temporary Restraining Order preventing County Police from enforcing "panhandling" ordinance against plaintiff Justin Guy of Kona. Guy, who is experiencing homelessness, was harassed by police, given a criminal citation, and forced to go through criminal proceedings for holding a sign (which, of course, is protected by the First Amendment).

MAUI VICTORY • Free speech applies to government employees, too: Popular “MAUIWatch” Facebook feed founder Neldon Mamuad, represented by the ACLU and cooperating attorneys Marcus Landsberg IV, Sam MacRoberts and Phillip Lowenthal, filed a lawsuit against Maui County. The parties settled the case, and the County agreed to revise workplace policies to better protect the free speech rights of County workers.

MAUI VICTORY • Signwaving laws overly broad, chill speech: Settled a federal lawsuit against Maui County over its unconstitutional restrictions on sign-waving along public roadways in 2013.  The ACLU went back to court in 2014 to make sure the County complied with the terms in the settlement agreement.

MAUI ONGOING • 1st Amendment issues at public sidewalk fronting Maui Fair: Pastor Strat Goodhue and his wife Doreen are plaintiffs against Maui County after being ejected from a public sidewalk for handing out leaflets. ACLU Hawai‘i and Davis Levin Livingston attorney Matthew Winter are representing them.

MAUI ONGOING • Invasive health screenings of County workers: Actively sought plaintiffs for a lawsuit to challenge Maui County’s practices of requiring all job applicants to submit to unconstitutional, suspicionless drug tests as a condition of employment. First legal challenge filed in 2015.