Hawaii’s District Courts are limited jurisdiction courts for the state. The majority of cases handled by District Courts are small claims, regular claims, traffic cases, and landlord/tenant disputes. District Courts have jurisdiction over hearings for felony cases, criminal offenses where the punishment does not exceed one year in prison, traffic violations, lawsuits where the amount is $40,000 or less, small claims of $5,000 or less and temporary restraining orders along with stalking petitions. Additionally, cases involving the title to real estate or other property are resolved by District Courts. These courts also have the authority to hear appeals in cases where individuals were denied motor vehicle registration.
The District Courts in Hawaii also serve the public in a variety of other ways such as the District Court Probation program. The Division of Driver’s Education received all their funding from traffic violation fees paid in District Court. Having a focus on small claims and civil lawsuits, the Hawaii State Judiciary website has dozens of resources for self-represented individuals on how to navigate the court system. They also have a mobile app, online court records and e-filing to make things easier for patrons. Additionally, all the forms needed for small claims, lawsuits, landlord/tenant disputes, and traffic cases are readily available for download. Although court staff cannot provide legal advice, they do help to connect individuals with attorneys.
To assist low-income residents, attorney’s volunteer to provide free legal assistance in District Court situations on a scheduled basis. The Hawaii Judicial website posts dates and times when this service is available. They also offer language and other accessibility options for people in need.
For the final year tallied, Hawaii’s District Courts recorded 52,923 new cases. Of those, 12,235 were for civil matters, 6,228 were for small claims and 31,544 were for criminal infractions.