Tuesday, June 8, 1999

Attorney who
defended Bishop
Estate leaders resigns

William McCorriston drew sharp
criticism in dealings with state
investigators and Kamehameha staff

By Rick Daysog


Attorney William McCorriston, criticized for his bare-knuckles defense of the Bishop Estate's majority trustees, has resigned as the charitable trust's outside counsel.

The estate's new, interim trustees recently accepted McCorriston's offer to resign and are shifting his responsibilities to local attorney Rosemary Fazio, estate spokesman Kekoa Paulsen said.

McCorriston -- whose firm McCorriston Miho Miller Mukai billed the estate $1.1 million in legal fees for the year ending June 30, 1998 -- headed the trust's defense to the attorney general's two-year investigation into alleged misconduct by trustees.

The state investigation eventually led to suits to remove at least four trustees and indictments against board members Henry Peters and Richard "Dickie" Wong.

McCorriston did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. But several legal observers had expected him to step down after Probate Judge Kevin Chang on May 7 accepted the voluntary resignation of trustee Oswald Stender and ordered the temporary removal of the remaining four board members.

The interim replacement trustees are retired Adm. Robert Kihune, former Iolani School headmaster David Coon, attorney Ronald Libkuman, former Honolulu Police Chief Francis Keala and Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. treasurer Constance Lau.

They are in the process of notifying the probate court of the change of attorneys, Paulsen said.

Paulsen said the McCorriston firm will continue to conduct work for the estate unrelated to the ongoing state investigation.

Fazio, McCorriston's replacement, is a partner with the estate's trust attorney, Bruce Graham, in the law firm of Ashford & Wriston. Fazio previously has represented the estate in various real estate-related litigation, such as the 1993 leasehold dispute and sale of the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii hotel.

In the past, the attorney general's office complained about legal delays caused by McCorriston. Lawyers there believe McCorriston tried to stonewall their investigation by filing numerous and frivolous challenges to their subpoenas for trust records.

Former trustees Stender and Gerard Jervis, in a 1997 probate court petition, charged that McCorriston kept them in the dark on trust matters and took his instruction from former majority trustees Peters, Wong and Lokelani Lindsey.

Jervis and Stender sharply criticized the McCorriston Miho law firm for its investigation into the release of a Western Association of Schools and Colleges report that was critical of the trustees' management of the estate-run Kamehameha Schools.

Staffers from the McCorriston firm interviewed at least two school staffers with a court reporter present. Employees also were asked if they would agree to take lie detector tests.

A state judge eventually issued a temporary restraining order against the majority trustees for their investigation into the report's release. The full board later agreed to allow school administrators to conduct the inquiry.

McCorriston previously defended his tactics, saying he was exercising his clients' legal rights when he questioned the hundreds of document requests by the attorney general's office.

He added that his firm's investigation into the release of the report was not heavy-handed or unusual, citing the estate's handbook, which says employees could be disciplined or fired if they release confidential information.

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