The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii Foundation (“ACLU”) filed a lawsuit in First Circuit Court today on behalf of the law firm Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld, LLLP (“RBGG”). The suit, against the Hawaii Department of Public Safety (“PSD”), seeks immediate access to public records in compliance with Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act (“UIPA,” otherwise known as Hawaii’s “open records” law).
By law, the State is required to respond to UIPA requests within ten days; even where extenuating circumstances exist, the State is required to at least begin providing access to documents within twenty business days after the person requesting the records pre-pays for those records. RBGG filed a formal request for government records with the DPS in September 2012, seeking documents relevant to the wrongful death cases of two Hawaii prisoners held at Corrections Corporation of America (“CCA”) prisons. Seven months later, and after RBGG pre-paid over $5,300 (as requested by PSD), not a single document has been produced. The lawsuit alleges that the mainland CCA lawyers representing the State of Hawaii in the wrongful death cases instructed PSD not to release the documents, in violation of state law.
Attorney Ernest Galvan of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld said: “This is unacceptable. RBGG has followed the proper procedures to access these documents, we have complied with every request made of us by the PSD: we’ve clarified our request, we’ve pre-paid fees, and we’ve given them extension after extension. The State is obligated to produce these documents, and after waiting seven months for information that is supposed to take ten days to produce, our patience, and the patience of the families we represent, is at an end.”
ACLU of Hawaii Senior Staff Attorney Daniel Gluck said: “Hawaii’s open records law is expansive and clear; agencies have an obligation to respond to requests for records in a thorough and timely manner. We have done all we can to resolve this matter outside of the courts, but when the state ignores its obligations under the law, we have to step in.”
The ACLU of Hawaii’s mission is to protect the fundamental freedoms contained in the state and federal constitutions through litigation, legislative and public education programs statewide.