The Hawaii Supreme Court has suspended City Councilman Jon Yoshimura from practicing law for six months, following the recommendation of the court's Disciplinary Board.
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Yoshimura's suspension came after he lied about a July 1999 traffic accident. Yoshimura had hit a parked, unoccupied Nissan Pathfinder with his Mercedes-Benz on Auahi Street fronting Ward Centre and left the scene. He initially told reporters he thought he had hit a utility pole and continued home.
Last August, two years after the incident, Yoshimura acknowledged at a news conference that he had lied when he told reporters on two separate occasions that he had not been drinking before the accident.
The disciplinary board also concluded that he lied to disciplinary panel staff three times on the same point.
A hearing committee of the board recommended Yoshimura's law license be suspended for one month. But the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the board's staff who initiated the case against Yoshimura, recommended he be suspended for a year and a day, which would have required him to petition for a reinstatement to the bar. The board recommended in February that Yoshimura's law license be suspended for six months.
"Although respondent Yoshimura's misconduct harmed the law profession and the integrity of the legal process, his misconduct did not cause any loss or damage to a client," the order said.
If a client had been harmed, the order said, Yoshimura's punishment would have been greater.
The order also mentioned his standing in the community as a member of the Council since 1995.
"We view a lawyer's misrepresentations as a matter of extreme gravity, particularly when the lawyer holds public office," the order said.
The justices said they took into consideration the fact that he recanted the statements and expressed remorse for his actions.
"I'm glad to put this very trying chapter in my life behind me," Yoshimura said yesterday in reaction to the decision. "I'm very excited and optimistic about the future."
Council colleagues ousted Yoshimura from the chairman's seat after the disciplinary panel's decision.
Yoshimura, whose Council term ends in January, is a candidate for lieutenant governor, and kicked off his campaign with a fund-raiser last night.
The court's order is effective May 13.
Yoshimura's law license, which he received in 1993, is inactive, and he has not practiced in several years.
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