About 300 students went to the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center to see the Hawaii Supreme Court hear oral arguments in the case State of Hawaii v Thomas Russo on Thursday, Nov. 9. The oral arguments were heard as part of the Hawaii Judiciary’s Courts in the Community program, and the case stems from MauiTime Publisher Tommy Russo’s arrest back in 2012 while he was photographing Maui Police Officers on Haleakala Highway during a traffic enforcement operation (click here for our background on the case).
“This is extremely topical to everyone in the state of Hawaii and it’s holding government accountable,” Russo told KITV News shortly after oral arguments ended. “There is nothing wrong with filming an officer in the line of duty. I don’t think I was breaking the law.”
Oral arguments before the Hawaii Supreme Court took about an hour. Then the Justices left and the attorneys (Jake Lowenthal for Russo, Richard Minatoya for the state) fielded questions from the students–who have been reading about the case and holding mock trials–for about an hour. After that, the Supreme Court Justices returned and took the students’ questions.
“It was a privilege to have my case presented in front of so many well-prepared young minds,” Russo told me after returning to Maui. “I’m glad the Supreme Court chose my case to use as a teaching tool. It was great to be in front of the highest court in the state, dealing with an issue that’s so important to all of us as we continue to embrace new technologies. This issue is important to all of us, especially the students.”
It could be some time–even as long as a year–before the Supreme Court hands down a decision.
Click here to see the KITV report on the oral arguments.
Photo: Thomas Russo