Case Details


Local Prosecutor Does Not Have Same Powers As Attorney General

Filing State



Hawaii Supreme Court




Rees v. Carlisle, 153 P.3d 1131 (Hawaii 2007)


Local prosecutor does not have same powers as Attorney General, even though he prosecutes offenses “under the authority of the Attorney General.”

Case Description

A local prosecutor used public funds and resources to advocate for a particular result on a proposed constitutional amendment concerning direct filing of felony charges, and a taxpayer sued. The prosecutor argued that the local ordinance authorizing his office, which stated that the prosecutor shall ”Prosecute offenses against the laws of the state under the authority of the attorney general of the state,” enabled him to advocate for a particular electoral result on a question applying to his office. He cited a Hawaiian statute which provided that the Attorney General shall initiate, develop, and perform or coordinate programs, projects, and activities on the subject of crime, including but not limited to crime research, prevention, and education. The court concluded that this statutory language is specifically directed to the department of the attorney general, and refers only to the attorney general’s powers. “[I]t cannot be seriously contended that the legislature intended to vest the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney of the City and County of Honolulu with the same powers as were granted to the state attorney general “