A married Waikoloa couple is suing the state, Gov. David Ige and Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, alleging Ige and Kim overextended and overstepped their emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic — including telling the husband he couldn’t sleep with his wife for 14 days because of the quarantine on travelers arriving from out of state.
The civil complaint, filed July 17 in Kona Circuit Court by Honolulu attorney James Hochberg on behalf of Richard Partal II and Kristine Partal and Richard Partal’s mother, Ellen Partal, alleges enforcement of the quarantine violated their civil rights.
Richard Partal and his mother were issued citations for allegedly violating the emergency quarantine.
“We’re asking that the court declare the citations that they have been served … unlawful, because the citations were issued in July, and if the governor’s powers expired May 3, the Legislature should have been making any new requirements, not the governor,” Hochberg said Tuesday. “And therefore, the Partals ought not to be subject to these criminal charges based on these unlawful orders.”
The crux of the suit is an assertion by the plaintiffs that Hawaii Revised Statutes Section Chapter 127-A gives the governor and county mayors authority to declare an emergency for 59 days only, and that any further emergency authority beyond that time frame belongs to the Legislature and not the chief executives.
According to the lawsuit, Richard Partal, who owns a condominium with his wife in Waikoloa, returned from the mainland in late April and early May and observed the quarantine.
Richard Partal left twice, in May and June, to perform “improvements and reinforcements for Interstate 405 freeway in Oregon as an exempt critical infrastructure employee,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit further states Partal had a valid quarantine exemption upon both returns, with the later return being July 6.
On July 7, Kristine Partal and Ellen Partal arrived in Hawaii from Oregon with Richard and Kristine’s 2-year-old son to complete the family move. According to the complaint, both Kristine and Ellen Partal were given instructions for self-quarantine, but the toddler “was not instructed to quarantine, nor was he included on any of the paperwork by name or other reference.”
The suit says that Richard Partal and his son, neither of whom were subject to the quarantine, went to the Waikoloa complex’s swimming pool, prompting the resident manager to call police to report a quarantine violation.
Richard Partal allegedly received a call July 10 from Hawaii County Civil Defense to inform him his quarantine exemption was revoked because of the report of him being in the complex’s common area. He was instructed to quarantine with his wife, son and mother, and that they had to social distance within the condo.
“Consequently, he and his wife, Kristine Partal, were not permitted to share a bed during the quarantine,” the complaint states.
“They told him he couldn’t sleep with his wife,” Hochberg said. “We’re supposed to have this right to privacy that allows, for the last 125 years, all kinds of topics to be off-limits to the government. But I don’t know. That’s what happened.”
Two county police officers came to the condo July 11, presented Richard Partal with photos of him, his mother and his son at the complex’s pool, and issued criminal citations to both Richard and Ellen Partal.
Both are scheduled to appear before a judge on the citations Sept. 15 in South Kohala District Court. The misdemeanor charges carry a potential penalty of imprisonment of up to a year and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Ige and Kim have each issued numerous supplemental emergency proclamations subsequent to their initial emergency orders. Both also did so during the emergency declared because of the lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kilauea volcano in 2018.
Krishna Jayaram, a special assistant to the attorney general, said the state was served with the lawsuit.
“The emergency proclamations issued in response to the COVID-19 emergency are well within the governor’s constitutional and statutory authority,” Jayaram said.
D. Kaena Horowitz, the deputy corporation counsel assigned to the case, said the county was served with the complaint, as well.
“The County of Hawaii stands by Gov. Ige’s emergency proclamations regarding COVID-19,” Horowitz said.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.