Judge upholds state's subpoenas

Bishop Estate had argued
that the attorney general's subpoenas
were too broad

By Jim Witty

A Circuit Court judge this morning upheld the validity of three state subpoenas involving Bishop Estate documents and testimony, rejecting arguments that they were "overly broad."

Judge Kevin Chang ruled that the attorney general's subpoenas - seeking a list of Bishop Estate contractors with annual billings, a roster of estate employees with phone numbers and addresses, and an interview with trustee Lokelani Lindsey - are relevant and provide adequate notice of the subject matter requested. And he denied the estate's request for a protective order covering the subpoenaed documents.

Chang also ruled that while subpoena recipients are entitled to have legal counsel present during questioning, a Bishop Estate attorney cannot sit in at this point in the investigation.

In addition, Chang ordered Attorney General Margery Bronster not to give unlisted telephone numbers provided on the employee list to any third parties.

"The judge's rulings are quite clear," said Bronster after this morning's hearing. "They're consistent with the law. He made it quite clear we're entitled to the information and if the trustees have a valid basis for confidentiality, he will look at it."

But Bishop Estate attorney Bill McCorriston said the ruling sets a bad precedent and the trust may appeal. "We're disappointed at the judge's refusal to require some specificity of the matters being investigated," McCorriston said.

"The judge's ruling makes it possible for the attorney general to investigate any business for any reason at any time. It's a bad precedent for constitutional rights."

McCorriston argued that the subpoenas are too broad and would mean "virtually every person and every document in Kamehameha Schools would be subject to this investigation. . . . They are so absolutely general, so absolutely undefined. That cannot be the law."

Bronster countered, "What is really going on here is an effort to delay the progress of the investigation."

She argued that the roster of employees is needed for quick reference in the future and that she isn't asking for all contracts, but a list of independent contractors over the past five years and contract amounts.

Chang ruled that the focus of the subpoenas - as part of an investigation of alleged financial misconduct and breach of fiduciary duties - is adequate.

Earlier this month, Chang ordered Bishop Estate trustees to comply with a state subpoena and turn over all nonprivileged trustee minutes since January 1993.

He is in the process of determining whether the balance of those minutes, deemed proprietary by Bishop Estate, should be kept from public view.

Rockne Freitas: "Whatever our obligations are, we're going to do our best to meet them."

State: Bishop Estate’s
lawyer impeding probe

By Harold Morse

The state attorney general's office says Bishop Estate attorney William McCorriston suggested that two estate employees not comply with subpoenas in an investigation.

State Attorney General Margery Bronster filed a motion yesterday to compel Bruce Nakaoka, Bishop Estate manager for real estate, and Eric Martinson, a financial analyst, to answer their subpoenas.

The attorney general is investigating possible breaches of trust and fiduciary duty by trustees of Bishop Estate/Kamehameha Schools.

"Today's problem is that William McCorriston, counsel for the trustees of Bishop Estate/Kamehameha Schools, sent counsel for the (sic) Mr. Nakaoka and Mr. Martinson a letter suggesting that they not comply with the subpoena," says a memorandum signed by Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones.

McCorriston said later that his advice to Robert Hackman, attorney for Nakaoka and Martinson, was solicited by Hackman and it was up to Hackman whether to advise his clients to honor the subpoenas.

The memo said the substance of McCorriston's letter is erroneous. The memo says McCorriston wrote Hackman, counsel for witnesses Nakaoka and Martinson, that it was "premature" for Attorney General Margery Bronster to examine Nakaoka and Martinson.

"The primary problem with Mr. McCorriston's letter is not that it is substantively inconsistent with representations made to the court the day before but that it was sent at all," the memo says. "Mr. McCorriston's letter was obviously intended to impede the investigation and to intimidate properly subpoenaed witnesses."

The attorney general wants the court to order trustees, whether or not acting through counsel, "to cease attempts to thwart the participation and cooperation of witnesses properly subpoenaed in the attorney general's investigation."

McCorriston said he doesn't want confidential information disclosed without a guarantee that it will be kept out of the public eye and there has been no agreement with the attorney general on the matter.

Also, Hackman was upset that his clients Nakaoka and Martinson were given only 24 hours or less to respond to the subpoenas, McCorriston said. He called it a lack of courtesy.

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