Saturday, June 29, 2002

Judge denies ex-trustee’s
lawsuit against the state

"Dickie" Wong claimed that the
state violated his civil rights

By Rick Daysog

A federal judge has ruled that former Kamehameha Schools trustee Richard "Dickie" Wong cannot pursue millions of dollars in damages from the Attorney General's Office.

U.S. District Judge Alan Kay granted the state's motion for summary judgment yesterday, saying the Attorney General's Office was acting in its role as advocate for the state when it sought indictments against Wong and his former wife Mari Stone.

"Defendants are absolutely immune from suits ... that are predicated upon their prosecutorial functions," Kay wrote in a 21-page order.

First Deputy Attorney Rick Keller said Kay's ruling sends a clear message.

"Judge Kay's opinion makes clear that such suits cannot succeed," Keller said.

Eric Seitz, Wong's attorney, said he plans to appeal Kay's decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He also plans to file a separate state Circuit Court suit against the Attorney General's Office for prosecutorial misconduct.

Wong's federal court suit, which was filed on June 29, 1999, alleged that the Attorney General's Office violated his civil rights by intentionally misleading a grand jury, subpoenaing privileged records and using a criminal indictment to leverage a lawsuit seeking Wong's removal from the Kamehameha Schools board.

Wong resigned from the trust in 1999, but his indictment was thrown out by Circuit Judge Michael Town. Town's ruling was upheld in February by the state Supreme Court, which said the state's prosecution of Wong and former trustee Henry Peters represented a "serious threat to the integrity of the judicial process."

Kay said the attorney general's conduct may have been "reprehensible" but is protected by absolute immunity. Kay cited several 9th Circuit cases that concluded that prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity from lawsuits so long as they are acting on the state's behalf.

Seitz said Wong would like to get the litigation behind him but is pursuing it on principle.

Seitz said that Wong, his former wife, his ex-brother-in-law Jeff Stone and former trustee Henry Peters previously offered to settle the case for $6 million, but that proposal was rejected by the Attorney General's Office.

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