Unique Hawaiʻi Legal Research Resources

By Roberta Woods, Reference & Instructional Services Law Librarian

Only four volumes of decisions of the United States District Court (USDC) for the Territory of Hawaiʻi were ever printed. They span the years 1903-1917.  The decisions in these volumes do not appear in the Federal Reporter covering the same time frame.  The Federal Supplement, a West Publishing created reporter of decisions of the federal district courts began in 1933. Prior to 1933, federal district court decisions appeared in the Federal Reporter.

In 1903, the Second Legislature of the Territory of Hawaiʻi in regular session passed S.B. 121 and Gov. Sanford Dole signed into law Act 47, An Act to Provide for the Publication of one Volume of the Reports of the Decisions of the United States District Court for the Territory of Hawaiʻi. It became law on April 25, 1903.  This volume is also known as “Estee’s Reports” because Judge Morris March Estee, the Judge of the United States District Court for the Territory of Hawaiʻi, prepared it.

The Judiciary Committee in the Senate reported that it was “informed that this is done in all Territories.” The legislation allotted $1,700 for the publication of 750 copies of volume 1, which was to be sold by the Secretary of the Territory for not less than $3.00 each.

In addition, each Circuit Judge, Supreme Judge, the Judge of the United States District Court of the Territory, the United States District Attorney, the Governor, the Attorney-General, the Secretary, the Tax Collector, and the Superintendent of Public Works of the Territory were given a copy. Judge Estee had six months to prepare the syllabi and an index for the decisions included in the volume.

Judge Estee had been appointed to the United States District Court for the Territory of Hawaiʻi on June 5, 1900 by President McKinley.  In 1888, he presided over the Republican National Convention.  Originally from Pennsylvania where he was born in 1833, Judge Estee moved to California in 1853. He died in Honolulu October 27, 1903, and was buried in California.

In 1905, the Third Legislature of the Territory of Hawaiʻi convened and S.B. 58, An Act to Provide for the Publication of the Decisions of the United States District Court for Hawaiʻi, was referred to the Judiciary Committee.  Senate Report No. 51 from the Judiciary Committee indicated that, “the Decisions of said Court are binding on the people in this Territory just the same as the Decisions of the Supreme Court of Hawaiʻi. We believe it is for the interests of the public that this Law should be passed.” The Committee also amended the bill’s language from “on” to “from and after the date of” in the Second Section. The legislation allotted $1,500 for not less than 500 copies for volume 2. A syllabi and index were also required of the judges for volume 2.

In 1911, S.B. 25, An Act to Provide for the Publication of the Decisions of the United States District Court for Hawaiʻi, was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Committee reported it favorably in Standing Committee Report No. 49, and it became law March 4, 1911.  The legislation provided $2,000 for not less than 500 copies of the District Court decisions.  A syllabi and index were also required of the judges for volume 3.

In 1915, H.B. 16, An Act to Provide for the Publication of the Decisions of the United States District Court for Hawaiʻi, was introduced in the House chamber of the eighth legislature of the Territory of Hawaiʻi.  It was referred to the Judiciary Committee and reported favorably out of committee with Standing Committee Report No. 26.

In the Senate H.B. 16 was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means where the language was amended.  The words “not more than two hundred and fifty copies” were substituted for the words “not less than five hundred copies.” The Committee stated in Standing Committee Report No. 194, that the publication will be a convenience to those engaged in law business and that 250 copies would be “plenty” to meet the demand.

Act 75 was allotted $2,500 for not more than 250 copies of the reports.  It was signed into law by Gov. Lucius E. Pinkham on April 13, 1915. Thus, the legislature limited the maximum number of books it would allow to be published where in prior years the minimum number of books to be printed was stated in the law.  Perhaps the benefit to “those engaged in law business” was the reason this was to be the final volume.  However, this law was repealed in 1917.

By 1917, the Decisions of the United States District Court for Hawaiʻi still had not been published from 1915.  S.B. 104, An Act to Provide for the Publication of the Decisions of the United States District Court for Hawaiʻi was introduced in the Senate of the ninth legislature of the Territory of Hawaiʻi. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.  The Standing Committee Report No. 259 indicated that an additional appropriation of $3,500 was necessary because the initial allocation of $2,500 was insufficient to create the publication of 250 copies of volume 4 of the reports. The Committee approved the amount but stipulated that the volume should include the decisions rendered since 1915.

In the House, S.B. 104 was referred to the Committee on Finance in which Standing Committee Report No. 440 stated that Act 75 of the Session Laws of 1915 was also to be repealed including the $2,500.  The original amount was inadequate and $3,500 would be largely repaid by the sales.

Summary Table
Year Amount Copies Selling Price
1903 $1,700.00 Not less than 750 Not less than $3.00 each
1905 $1,500.00 Not less than 500 Unspecified
1911 $2,000.00 Not less than 500 Unspecified
1915 $2,500.00 Not more than 250 Unspecified
1917 $3,500.00 Not more than 250 Unspecified
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