Supreme Court justices
discuss Bishop Estate
trustee selection process
'It's the first time they've askedBy Jim Witty
for input from Hawaiian organizations'
"A big step" and "a good effort."
That's how some members of the Hawaiian community rated meetings this past weekend between themselves and the five Hawaii Supreme Court justices over the justices' role in selecting Bishop Estate trustees.
Representatives of several Hawaiian groups -- including the Kamehameha Alumni Association, the Native Hawaiian Bar Association, Hawaiian Civic Clubs and Hawaiian Home Lands tenants -- gathered at the Manoa home of Justice Robert Klein for informal meetings yesterday and Saturday to discuss the justices' options.
"I thought it was a good effort on the part of the justices to get our input on the selection process of trustees," said Roy Benham, president of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association Oahu council.
"To my knowledge, it's the first time they've asked for input from Hawaiian organizations."
All the groups "restated their resolve to preserve the princess' will," Benham said yesterday.
The justices came under fire recently after "Broken Trust," an article penned by four prominent Hawaiians and an expert on charitable trusts, questioned the propriety of justices choosing Bishop Estate trustees.
The "Broken Trust" piece also sparked the attorney general's investigation of the 113-year-old, $10 billion trust.
"I think their openness is a big step," said Beadie Dawson, attorney for Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, a group of Kamehameha Schools parents, students and alumni critical of estate management of the schools.
"I'm quite encouraged. They don't have to listen to us."
Dawson, who attended Saturday's gathering but declined comment on the content of discussions, said there will likely be more informal opportunities for the justices "to hear what the people in the Hawaiian community are saying."
"Because there's a probability of so much good coming of this, I just don't want to screw it up with too much media attention," she said.
"What's foremost for all of us is preserving the integrity of the court and preserving the integrity of the school," Dawson said.
The justices could not be reached for comment yesterday, and Judiciary spokeswoman Marsha Kitagawa declined comment because the justices were meeting as individuals.
Benham said the meeting clarified several points for him, including what would happen if the justices stopped appointing trustees.
"I found out that in the event that they decided not to do it anymore, the function would go to the probate judge, who would establish a method of choosing the trustees," he said.
Randy Roth, one of the "Broken Trust" co-authors, speculated that the justices are probably looking for "the best way" to continue selecting the trustees.
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