Gov. David Ige issued a statement Wednesday saying that he would not call the Hawaii Legislature into special session to draft a new law to reverse a recent Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that limits prosecutors’ choices when indicting serious criminals.

“I’ve been talking with Legislative leaders about how they want to proceed,” Ige said in the statement. “The Supreme Court has ruled that grand jury indictments must be pursued for most of the serious crimes, and there are a number of pending cases in process. Any new legislation would be prospective only, so I don’t see the sense of urgency to try to implement a change. Until we have consensus on what changes would be necessary, I believe it’s premature to talk about a special session.”

The Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has asked the Legislature to convene in special session because the court’s Sept. 8 decision prevents it from initiating serious felony cases using preliminary hearings before a judge. The court ruled that a grand jury must hear each case before taking a defendant to trial and nearly 170 convicted felons were tried using the preliminary hearing process. Those cases could now be overturned, according to First Deputy Prosecutor Thomas Brady.

In the case of State V. Richard Obrero, the court ruled 3-2 that Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 801-1 requires serious felony prosecutions (murder, robbery, sexual assault) be brought via grand jury indictment. The court ruled the prosecution of Obrero was unconstitutional and that the complaint must be dismissed.

Senate President Ron Kouchi issued a statement Monday saying he has heard from all four county prosecutors about the possibility of a special session. A special session could be called if two-thirds of the members of both the House and Senate sign and send a petition to Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki asking that the session be held.

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