The Federal District of Hawaii
The District of Hawaii is the federal judicial district that covers the state of Hawaii. Hawaii officially became a U.S. territory in 1898, and then the 50th state admitted to the Union on August 21, 1959. Only a few weeks after statehood, the District of Hawaii was formally established by an act of Congress on March 18, 1959. The district is part of the Ninth Circuit and has federal court jurisdiction over the counties and islands that make up the state. The District’s courthouse is located in downtown Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
Overview of the District of Hawaii
The District of Hawaii encompasses the major Hawaiian islands including Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. It also covers the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands which stretch over 1,500 miles northwest of Niihau. In total, the district includes 137 islands, reefs, and shoals.
As mentioned above, the District of Hawaii was formally established on March 18, 1959 just months before Hawaiian statehood. The district court was authorized by Title 28, Section 91 of the United States Code. For most of Hawaii’s history, federal cases originating in Hawaii were heard by the U.S. federal courts in California. The new district court marked an important milestone in Hawaii’s path to statehood and self-governance.
Location of Courthouse
The District of Hawaii’s federal courthouse is located in Honolulu, the state’s capital and largest city. The Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Federal Building and United States Courthouse is located in downtown Honolulu at 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room C-109. The courthouse is open Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 4:00pm, except on federal holidays.
Key Facts About the District
Even though it encompasses numerous islands, Hawaii constitutes one unified judicial district. Unlike other states that are divided into multiple federal court districts, the District of Hawaii administers the entire state as a single district. It has jurisdiction over cases arising from the five counties of Hawaii – Hawaii, Honolulu, Kalawao, Kauai, and Maui.
In addition to the 8 major Hawaiian islands listed earlier, the district also officially includes the Midway Islands, Wake Island, Johnston Island, Sand Island, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Island, Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Canton Island, and Enderbury Island.
Special Notes on Canton and Enderbury Islands
The inclusion of Canton and Enderbury Islands is noteworthy because of an ongoing sovereignty dispute between the U.S. and the United Kingdom dating back to 1939. Per the language in the U.S. Code establishing the district, the inclusion of those two islands shall not be “construed to be prejudicial to the claims of the United Kingdom” to the islands based on a past agreement between the two countries.
U.S. Courthouse in Honolulu
As noted earlier, the District’s main federal courthouse is located in downtown Honolulu at 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room C-109 with the postal address PO Box 50184, Honolulu, HI 96850-0109.
The phone number to reach the District Court clerk’s office is (808) 541-1300. The courthouse facilities provide courtrooms and office space for the U.S. District Court judges and staff. It houses the main court clerk’s office, probation and pretrial services, district court library, as well as U.S. Attorney offices.
There are courtrooms equipped for jury trials, judge trials, and other court proceedings like arraignments and hearings. There are also prisoner holding cells located within the courthouse.
U.S. Marshal Office
The U.S. Marshal office for the District of Hawaii is currently vacant with no permanent appointee. The Marshal service is responsible for prisoner transport, courthouse security, asset forfeiture program, witness security program and more. The Hawaii office carries out these duties from the Honolulu courthouse location.
Federal Judges Serving the District
There are currently two district court judges, one senior status judge, and three federal magistrate judges serving the District of Hawaii.
The current active district court judges are Chief Judge J. Michael Seabright (appointed 2006) and Judge Derrick Kahala Watson (appointed 2013).
Chief Judge Seabright graduated from the University of Hawaii Law School in 1989. Prior to his appointment, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and attorney in private practice.
Judge Watson attended Harvard Law School and previously served as an attorney focused on labor law, Native Hawaiian law, and commercial litigation.
The three federal magistrate judges are Kenneth J. Mansfield (appointed 2002), Richard L. Puglisi (appointed 2015), and Wes Reber Porter (appointed 2015).
Magistrate judges handle preliminary criminal matters, prisoner cases, civil cases with consent of parties, and misdemeanor trials.
The District of Hawaii encompasses the entire state and surrounding islands within a single federal judicial district headquartered in Honolulu. It was established shortly after Hawaii became a state in 1959. The district court oversees cases arising from the counties and islands of Hawaii and has two district court judges, one senior judge, and three magistrates carrying out its duties. The Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Courthouse serves as the base of operations for the District.
Importance of Federal Judiciary
The federal court system plays a crucial role in upholding the U.S. Constitution, settling disputes, and administering justice in Hawaii. The District of Hawaii carries out this important mission for the thousands of people living and working within its jurisdiction.
What counties are covered by the District of Hawaii?
The District covers the five counties of Hawaii – Hawaii, Honolulu, Kalawao, Kauai, and Maui.
How many federal judges serve the District of Hawaii?
There are two active U.S. District Court judges, one senior status judge, and three magistrate judges.
When was the federal District of Hawaii established?
It was established on March 18, 1959, shortly before Hawaii officially became a U.S. state.
What islands are included in the District of Hawaii?
In addition to the major Hawaiian islands, it includes the Midway Islands, Wake Island, Johnston Island, and several other smaller islands and reefs.
Where is the District of Hawaii’s courthouse located?
The main federal courthouse is located in downtown Honolulu at 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room C-109.