Hoist the Yellow Flag and Spam® Up: The Separation of Powers Limitation on Hawaii’s Emergency Authority
52 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 20, 2020
Hawaii’s government has a long experience responding to public health emergencies. But until 2014, when the Hawaii legislature adopted a comprehensive structural overhaul, Hawaii’s emergency response statutes and organization were a patchwork of scattered provisions that did not conform to modern emergency management and response practices.
The law’s first major test has been a dramatic one: the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. Hawaii’s governor exercised his authority to issue a declaration of emergency, and later issued supplemental proclamations purporting to extend the termination date for the emergency.
This article analyzes whether the statute’s internal limitation on delegated emergency power—the “automatic termination” provision, under which an emergency proclamation terminates by law the sixtieth days after it was issued—may be enforced by the courts. It argues that that the circumstances in which a court would sustain a challenge are limited, and that the primary remedy will be a political one. It should not be so, however, because Hawaii precedents confirm that the courts should enforce the essential separation of powers boundaries between the other branches. This article examines the prominent narrative threads that have emerged from Hawaii’s history of adjudicating claims arising out of public health crises, quarantines, and emergencies, as a way of comparing the directions a court might take.
Keywords: Hawaii constitutional law, emergency law, public health law, Hawaii Supreme Court judicial history
JEL Classification: K32, K41, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation