Former trustee's suit dismissed
Richard Wong sued over efforts to oust him from Kamehameha
The Hawaii Supreme Court scuttled yesterday a former Kamehameha Schools trustee's effort to seek compensation from state officials who brought charges against him.
The high court upheld a 2003 Circuit Court decision that blocked Richard "Dickie" Wong from proceeding in state court with claims that were already denied in federal courts.
Wong, a former state Senate president, and his family filed a malicious-prosecution suit against former Gov. Ben Cayetano, former state Attorneys General Earl Anzai and Margery Bronster, and others. The case dates to 1999, when the state sought to remove the trustees of Kamehameha Schools, formerly called Bishop Estate, charging that they mismanaged the trust and took excessive compensation.
The Circuit Court dismissed the Wongs' suit on the legal principle that a plaintiff cannot bring the same legal claim to a second court after the issue has been settled in another court. U.S. District Judge Alan Kay had dismissed a federal suit by Wong claiming his constitutional right to due process was violated. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Kay, affirming that the state attorney general's office was acting in its role as advocate for the people.
Wong's attorney Eric Seitz said yesterday he will file a motion for a rehearing. He said the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled on an issue that was not before the lower court and did not provide him a chance to argue on it.
The high court ruled that Wong had released any right to make a malicious-prosecution claim when he entered into a $20 million settlement agreement with the state in 2000, putting to rest the state's civil case against the five trustees.
"I was appalled that the decision has been made on that basis," Seitz said. "Everybody agreed when the settlement was made in probate court that it had nothing to do with the criminal case. To do it without even allowing us to argue was wrong."
The state's investigation led to criminal indictments against Wong and trustee Henry Peters, relating to a real estate sale to a group that included Wong's former brother-in-law Jeffrey Stone. Circuit Judge Michael Town dismissed criminal charges on three occasions, finding that prosecutors denied Wong an unbiased grand jury by illegally bolstering the testimony of a key witness.