High court rules against Carlisle
The city prosecutor's office spent $2,000 in an election campaign
American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii Legal Director Lois Perrin said she is pleased with yesterday's Hawaii Supreme Court ruling but not surprised by it.
"There has never been authority for public officials to spend public funds on behalf of an election position," Perrin said.
The state's high court ruled that city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle did not have legal authority to spend taxpayer money to urge Hawaii voters to approve a proposed constitutional amendment in the 2002 statewide general election.
However, the state's high court did not order any penalty.
"We would have preferred that Mr. Carlisle make the public whole," Perrin said.
In court filings, Carlisle said his office spent at least $2,404, including paper and use of copying equipment, telephones and its Web site to urge people to vote yes on the ballot question. He also said that while employees who participated in the campaign volunteered, some of the volunteers were asked to work on the campaign on official work time.
Carlisle's use of public funds for ballot proposal improper
Honolulu City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle should not have used taxpayer funds to urge voters to approve a proposed constitutional amendment during the 2002 statewide general election, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
The ballot question asked voters to give prosecutors an alternative to grand juries and preliminary hearings for bringing felony charges against criminal defendants. Hawaii voters approved the so-called information charging, also known as direct filing.
The unanimous ruling from the state's high court justices reverses a September 2004 lower court decision.
Carlisle also said he and other representatives of his office participated in 66 separate public speaking engagements urging passage of the proposed amendment and that he and 57 other representatives of his office sign-waved in support of the ballot question.
"If I'm muzzled from sign waving and speaking engagements, then I'm concerned," he said.
However, Carlisle said he does not know what he will do next until he has done a more thorough analysis and gets advice from his attorneys, who are in Washington, D.C.
The ballot question asked voters to approve a constitutional amendment to establish information charging, also known as direct filing, as a means of imposing felony charges against criminal defendants.
Prosecutors can present evidence and witness testimony in front of either a grand jury or a judge.
In information charging, a judge can determine probable cause by reviewing written statements and affidavits from the victim, witnesses and police officers.
In 2002, Hawaii voters approved information charging, but the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the results because the ratification process was flawed.
The court found that the state Office of Elections failed to publish voter education materials explaining the amendment for four consecutive weeks prior to the election. It also found that voters were provided misinformation regarding the proposal.
In 2004, Hawaii lawmakers put the question back on the ballot, and voters again approved.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging Carlisle's use of his office in the election in 2002 on behalf of freelance writer, television and radio talk show host Robert Rees. Rees died in November 2005. His widow, Keene, agreed to carry on as plaintiff.