Pursuant to HRS § 91-14(a),
[a]ny person aggrieved by a final decision and order in a contested case or by a preliminary ruling of the nature that deferral of review pending entry of a subsequent final decision would deprive appellant of adequate relief is entitled to judicial review thereof under this chapter; but nothing in this section shall be deemed to prevent resort to other means of review, redress, relief, or trial de novo, including the right of trial by jury, provided by law.Prior to the instant case, Hawaii courts strained to find a contested case before it granted standing. See, e.g., Mahuiki v. Planning Comm'n, 65 Haw. 506 (1982) (opining that "a public hearing, conducted pursuant to public notice, has been deemed a 'contested case' within the meaning of HRS § 91-1”). Similarly, the dissenting opinion in the instant case noted that in Singleton v. Liquor Comm'n, County of Haw., 111 Haw. 234 (2006), the court implicitly determined that a contested-case hearing was held in deciding a liquor license application so that it had a basis for assuming jurisdiction under HRS § 91-14(a).
Without the “contest case” hook to hang jurisdiction on, appeals of administrative decisions seem wide open so long as an agency hearing is required by law and determines the rights, duties, or privileges of specific parties. This new approach is most clearly stated in the Court’s citation in footnote 35 to a Washington opinion as follows:
In Prestige Stations, Inc. v. Wash. Liquor Control Bd., 657 P.2d 322 (Wash. Ct. App. 1982), the Washington Court of Appeals held that although judicial review under the Washington APA was not available for denial of an initial application for a liquor license since such a proceeding was not a contested case, judicial review was available under the court's "inherent power of review" for "administrative action that is arbitrary, capricious or contrary to law since the fundamental right referred to is simply the right to be free from such action." Id. at 324. The supreme court therefore reversed the superior court's order dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction and remanded the case "for further proceedings under the court's inherent power of review[.]" Id. at 327.
A court's "inherent power of review" is as broad as it can be argued; consequently, this decision may provide more flexibility for challenging government land use decisions in the circuit court.