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Peter Fritz v. State of Hawaii Department of Taxation – The Documents

This case is an attempt by Peter Fritz, an attorney and former Department of Taxation rules specialist, to access communications between the Department of Taxation and the State Legislature on bills the Department was lobbying for.

During the 2009 legislative session, Fritz asked for certain legislative communications, the Department refused to provide them, Fritz sought and obtained an opinion from the State Office of Information Practices that the communications should be disclosed, and the Department turned over the documents (which at the time was years after the legislative session ended).

Fritz then requested access to lobbying communications from the Department during the 2016 legislative session, and the Department refused to provide them.  Fritz then filed this suit.  The Department later turned over the documents, which like the 2009 documents was well after the legislative session ended.  The Department now claims that the suit should be dismissed as moot, while Fritz wants the court to order the Department to turn over requested documents on a more timely basis.

The case is in Hawaii First Circuit Court, initially assigned to Judge Rhonda A. Nishimura and then taken up by Judge James H. Ashford upon her retirement.  Civil No. 16-1-2120-11 JHA.  Fritz is represented by The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest.

In a minute order, Judge Ashford ruled that the case was moot because the documents were turned over and none of the exceptions to the “mootness doctrine” apply.  The case will be dismissed, but Fritz will be considered the prevailing party because the documents were turned over.  We are now waiting for the written order.

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