Agency Decision Appeal In Hawaii
A finding of fact is clearly erroneous when:
(1) the record lacks substantial evidence to support the finding,
(2) despite substantial evidence in support of the finding, the appellate court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.
On the other hand, a conclusion of law is not binding on an appellate court and is freely reviewable for its correctness. Thus, this court reviews conclusions de novo under the right/wrong standard.
Bocalbos v. Kapiolani Medical Center, 93 Haw. 116, 124-25, 997 P.2d 42, 49 (App. 2000) HRS 91-14(g) (1993) provides:
Upon review of the record the court may affirm the decision of the agency or remand the case with instructions for further proceedings;
or it may reverse or modify the decision and order if the substantial rights of the petitioners may have been prejudiced because the administrative findings, conclusions, decisions, or orders are:
(1) In violation of constitutional or statutory provisions; or
(2) In excess of the statutory authority or jurisdiction of the agency; or
(3) Made upon unlawful procedure; or
(4) Affected by other error of law; or
(5) Clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record; or
(6) Arbitrary, or capricious, or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.
In addition, the Hawaii Supreme Court has stated that appellate review is "further qualified by the principle that the agency's decision carries a presumption of validity and appellant has the heavy burden of making a convincing showing that the decision is invalid because it is unjust and unreasonable in its consequences."
Mitchell v. State, Dept. of Educ., 85 Haw. 250, 254, 942 P.2d 514, 518 (1997) (quoting Sussel v. Civil Serv. Comm'n, 74 Haw. 599, 608, 851 P.2d 311, 316, reconsideration denied, 74 Haw. 650, 857 P.2d 600 (1993); Bragg v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 81 Haw. 302, 304, 916 P.2d 1203, 1205 (1996)).