Hawaii Supreme Court
Hawaii Supreme Court (Photo: Emily Metcalf)
Hawaii Supreme Court
Photo: Emily Metcalf

BY JIM DOOLEY – After initially saying it couldn’t be done, the Hawaii State Judiciary has upgraded electronic access to state Circuit Court records.

The access system, called Ho’ohiki, allows the public to look up Circuit Court civil and criminal case dockets online.

In recent months, as the number of users grew, logging onto Ho’ohiki was increasingly delayed and the number of complaints about the system rose.

Private attorney David Rosen has been vociferous in his complaints about Ho’ohiki, writing to Rodney Maile, Administrative Director of the Courts, in September and October about the problem.

“During most of the day it is difficult if not impossible to log on to the system,” Rosen wrote.

“In fact, when I called the Ho’ohiki Helpline, I was told that this problem has existed for years and that between 10 am and 4 pm most days there can be delays of 5 to 10 minutes to log in,” the lawyer told Maile.

The Judiciary explained to Rosen, and later to Hawaii Reporter, that 70 “slots” for online access to the system were available and that expanding the number of slots would be difficult given plans by the court to replace Ho’ohiki with a new electronic system by April 2014.

But Maile told Hawaii Reporter in a recent interview that the Judiciary had managed to add another 30 “slots” for online access by the public, as well as another five to be used internally by court personnel.

Complaints about the system from Rosen and Hawaii Reporter “were valid,” Maile said, adding that court workers had also been frustrated by the sluggishness of Ho’ohiki.

The courts had to pay a “licensing fee” for the 35-slot upgrade but expanding the system beyond that new capacity will be difficult due to significant additional “hardware and software issues,” Maile said.

Ultimately, Ho’ohiki will be replaced by the Circuit Court portion of the overall Judiciary Information Management System, parts of which have already been installed elsewhere, Maile said.

Operational portions of JIMS, as it is called, now include paperless, electronic arrest warrants, an upgraded jury pool program called eJuror, and a new electronic records filing and retrieval system for the Supreme Court and Intermediate Court of Appeals.

Appellate case documents are now filed electronically and can be accessed online – for a price.

Regular users of the appellate courts can now subscribe to the online system at prices ranging from $125 per quarter to $500 per year.

Occasional users can download individual documents at a cost of 10 cents per page or $3, whichever is larger.

Similar fees will be assessed to access Circuit and District Court records when those electronic portions of JIMS go online.

The public access plans are patterned after PACER, an online records retrieval system which has been in operation at federal courts around the country for years.

Court customers will still be able to get free access to Circuit Court civil and criminal records by physically visiting the file rooms and logging onto terminals set aside for public use.

But those terminals will be for viewing only. Fees will be assessed for copies of records.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com