Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Felix panel’s call
for new judge denied

The legislative panel claimed
Judge Ezra cannot be objective

By Crystal Kua

A federal judge's ruling and comments about a state legislative committee investigating Felix consent decree costs will not discourage the committee from continuing to seek enforcement of a subpoena, members say.

"This is our right under law. We are just attempting to fulfill our obligation to the people of this state," said Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, co-chairwoman of the committee.

U.S. District Judge Sam King denied yesterday the committee's request to disqualify federal Judge David Ezra from presiding over a motion by the committee, which wants to have an earlier ruling by Ezra reconsidered.

Ezra can be fair in deciding whether to reverse his earlier decision to quash a subpoena issued to Judith Schrag, King said.

King also said unflattering things about the committee.

"There seems to be an ego problem with your committee," King told committee attorney James Kawashima.

State lawmakers said they are asking for Ezra's disqualification because they believe he cannot be objective after likening the committee's work to "McCarthyism."

Schrag was a member of a court-appointed panel that provided technical assistance in the state's efforts to comply with the consent decree, a federal mandate to improve special-education services.

The committee, which is examining the state's spending associated with compliance, issued a subpoena for Schrag to appear before its members. Ezra killed the subpoena.

Eric Seitz, the attorney representing children covered by the consent decree, said the committee is "grasping at straws" and does not have a legal avenue to remove Ezra.

"All of this is posturing and all of this is politics," said Seitz, indicating that he intends to seek sanctions.

"We brought this motion in good faith, and it was not frivolous," said Rep. Scott Saiki, who also chairs the committee. "We have a separate constitutional obligation to account for taxpayer dollars. We're just doing our job."

The committee has filed a separate lawsuit to also seek enforcement of the subpoena, and Saiki said the lawsuit is still a viable route to seek enforcement.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin