Friday, September 3, 1999

Peters’ lawyer wants
judge off case

By Rick Daysog


A lawyer for ousted Bishop Estate trustee Henry Peters has asked Probate Judge Kevin Chang to recuse himself from the upcoming trial over Peters' permanent removal from the multibillion-dollar trust's board.

But a state attorney called the recusal petition a last-minute, desperate move.

In court papers filed yesterday, Peters' attorney, Renee Yuen, said that Chang should voluntarily recuse himself or be disqualified due to an appearance of a conflict of interest.

Yuen said the appearance of a conflict arises from Chang's former affiliation with the law firm of Watanabe Ing & Kawashima, which is representing the Bishop Estate's interim trustees in their efforts to permanently remove trustees Peters, Richard "Dickie" Wong and Lokelani Lindsey.

Chang has been an associate and partner of the law firm but left it to become a Circuit Court judge in 1993.

Yuen noted that Watanabe Ing had represented the Bishop Estate in the past, but late last year the estate sued the firm for legal malpractice arising from its handling of a Big Island civil suit. Yuen said Chang last year recused himself from hearing the previous malpractice case against the law firm.

Chang, who has scheduled an Oct. 22 hearing on the recusal motion, could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the Watanabe Ing firm also could not be reached for response.

Peters' petition comes after Chang on May 7 temporarily removed him and fellow trustees Wong, Lindsey and Gerard Jervis, after the Internal Revenue Service threatened to revoke the estate's tax-exempt status if the trustees were not replaced.

Chang's historic removal order also appointed a five-member interim board, which is seeking the former trustees' permanent removal.

A status conference is scheduled for today to set a date for the trial for permanent removal.

Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones said there is no basis for Chang's recusal, which comes nearly two years after Chang first became involved in the Bishop Estate case.

Jones noted that Chang had previously disclosed his former relationship with the Watanabe Ing firm, and Peters until now made no objection over the judge's former employment.

"The problem is not the judge," Jones said. "The problem is Mr. Peters' inability to see reality at this point and his inability to do the right thing and submit his resignation."

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