Court rules airline deserves jury trial
The state Supreme Court says Aloha Island Air was denied its right to a jury trial when the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission ordered the airline to hire a pilot who is blind in one eye and pay him $1.4 million for an employment discrimination claim.
Circuit Court Judge Eden Elizabeth Hifo reversed the order in 2001.
In a decision released yesterday, the Supreme Court said the case would be sent back to Circuit Court for a jury trial. Four of the five Hawaii Supreme Court judges presiding over the case signed a three-page majority opinion. Associate Justice Simeon Acoba wrote a dissenting opinion, saying sending the case back to Circuit Court undermines the judicial process.
It has been 16 years since Bruce Pied, a Big Island resident, was turned down for a position at Aloha Island Air. The airline, which was sold and renamed Island Air, has said it did not discriminate against Pied, but followed a policy against hiring monocular pilots.
"Because the majority vacates the court's ruling as to the claims of discrimination ... Island Air is afforded a fourth opportunity to overcome Pied's discrimination claims, despite the fact that Island Air exhausted both federal judicial and state administrative processes," Acoba wrote in his 14-page opinion. "This process in effect renders the administrative proceedings meaningless and multiplies the burden cast on Pied and other employees or potential hirees."
Lawyers for Island Air did not return calls last night.
Pied's attorney, David Simons, said the Supreme Court decision was disappointing.
"If we have a jury trial, then another appeal, then it could be another 20 years" of litigation, he said. "Justice delayed is justice denied. It may well be that that's what's going to happen."
Pied was a pilot for Air Samoa when he applied to work for Aloha Island Air in 1990.