How to Obtain Court Records in Hawaii
Hawaii has three levels of state courts spread across the state’s four major islands. In order to find the right court records it is important to have an understanding of the state’s judiciary structure.
Hawaii’s districts courts have jurisdiction over small claims cases under $3,500, landlord-tenant disputes, traffic cases, civil lawsuits, misdemeanor criminal offenses, and civil suits (non-trial) with $25,000 or less in dispute. Also on the district court level are specialty courts dealing with family matters (juvenile and divorce) and probate (guardianships, wills and estates, inheritances).
The state’s circuit courts are trial courts that handle more significant criminal charges such as felonies and civil cases in which significant sums of money are at stake. Above the circuit and district courts are appellate courts which hear disputes about the decisions of the lower courts and automatic appeals of certain cases such as murder verdicts. The state supreme court sits atop Hawaii’s judicial system, hearing appeals of lower court cases and weighing the constitutionality of state laws.
Obtaining court documents
Links on the following page allow for searches of criminal and civil court cases: http://www.courts.state.hi.us/legal_references/records/search_court_records. Be advised that certain records are limited by confidentiality laws, including juvenile cases and those that include medical information of individuals. Victims of certain crimes may also have their names redacted from case records.
Divorce and vital records
Unlike other states where divorce decrees are held at the court where the divorce was granted, Hawaii keeps its vital records together at the Department of Health: http://health.hawaii.gov/vitalrecords/. There are restrictions on who is able to request vital records, including close family members: http://health.hawaii.gov/vitalrecords/who-is-eligible/.
When a landowner dies, his or her estate is overseen by a probate court until the deed or possession of the property is transferred and heirs have received their shares. In some states probate courts also oversee some issues pertaining to senior residents such as guardianships and trusts. Use the general civil court search engine to find the records of the deceased property owner: http://www.courts.state.hi.us/legal_references/records/search_court_records.
Obtaining records of land court decisions is a simple matter of searching on the following website and submitting a request for records as instructed here: https://boc.ehawaii.gov/docsearch/search.html.
The U.S. District Court, a federal court with jurisdiction in Hawaii, handles bankruptcy cases and other criminal and civil matters that cross state lines or involve class action lawsuits. To search for these records, see https://pcl.uscourts.gov/pcl/index.jsf.