Bar candidates
connected to flap

Two of three candidates are linked to
opposite sides of the controversy

By Mike Yuen and Richard Borreca

The Bishop Estate controversy is casting a long shadow over the Hawaii State Bar Association's upcoming election of a new leader.

Two of the three candidates vying for the bar's presidency in 1999 are closely linked to the state's investigation into whether the trustees for the estate, one of the nation's largest, have breached their fiduciary responsibilities.

One is a high-profile Bishop Estate critic. The other is a former city corporation counsel whose law firm was hired by the estate as the state's probe got under way.

Nominated by the state bar's nomination committee, University of Hawaii Law Professor Randall Roth, 49, is a co-author of "Broken Trust," an article highly critical of four of the five estate trustees and how trustees are selected by state Supreme Court justices. The essay, which appeared Aug. 9 in the Star-Bulletin, spurred Gov. Ben Cayetano to order the state probe.

Shortly after the bar panel nominated Roth and Hawaii Pacific University Associate Professor of Law Melvin Masuda, Darolyn Lendio entered the race.

Lendio, 38, a partner in the Honolulu law firm of McCorriston Miho Miller Mukai, entered using a procedure rarely used by candidates for state bar offices: She got the signatures of 21 bar members on a petition -- only 20 are required -- to be placed on the ballot.

Her senior partner, William McCorriston, has tangled with Attorney General Margery Bronster over the release of estate documents.

Masuda is tied indirectly to the Bishop Estate controversy. His daughter is a ninth grader at Kamehameha Schools, whose students are beneficiaries of the estate, the largest private landowner in Hawaii. So "as a concerned parent," he has been following the Bishop Estate flap, Masuda said.

Isle attorneys said how the Bishop Estate is viewed by their colleagues could be a factor in the bar's election. But, they add, they doubt the bar election will be tantamount to a referendum on the estate.

"It'll be more a mixed bag. Some will totally disregard the Bishop Estate, some will let it influence them a little bit and some, a lot," said attorney Alan Van Etten, the outgoing state bar president.

But it is "inevitable," Van Etten added, that some people are viewing the bar election as an extention of the fight between the Bishop Estate and its critics and the state. "There's no question that there has been a lot of chatter. A lot of people are talking about it," Van Etten said of the election.

Roth said his bid for the state bar presidency is not an attempt to expand his role in the Bishop Estate controversy.

But in a letter he plans to mail to fellow attorneys to solicit their support, Roth acknowledged, using a friend's words, that the Bishop Estate is "the elephant on the table."

Roth added, "Regardless of the outcome of the attorney general's investigation, my co-authors and I believed that these issues needed airing."

The bar association elects two of the nine members of the Judicial Selection Commission, who select the state's justices. They, in turn, pick Bishop Estate trustees.

Lendio said her candidacy is not an attempt to keep Roth from becoming bar president.

"People have called me and said, 'Isn't Bill McCorriston telling you to do this?' "First, it is a fact he doesn't want me to do it. Second, that people perceive that I am motivated by my white male partner is to me ridiculous, and I find it very insulting.

"I have held myself to the highest ethical motivations, and I find it insulting that people would say I am motivated by what my senior partners would tell me to do," Lendio said.

Both Lendio, a native of Waialua, and Roth, who was born in Ellinwood, Kan., said they have previously considered running for bar president.

Lendio said she was asked to run this year. The reason: A practicing attorney, George Playdon Jr., was interested in the presidency but wasn't nominated, leaving only Roth and Masuda, both law professors.

"I think it is very important that we have a practicing lawyer," she added.

Roth and Masuda also work outside of academia. Roth is counsel to Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel. Masuda maintains a private practice.

Asked to comment on Lendio's candidacy, Roth would only say: "Well, it might not be a coincidence. But the bottom line is it gives bar members more choices. It is good to have lots of choices."

State bar election

The Hawaii State Bar Association has 4,000 active members who are eligible to vote. (The 1,700 inactive members don't.)

The position: Vice president/president-elect (the winner will serve as vice president in 1998 and president in 1999).

The candidates: Former city Corporation Counsel Darolyn Lendio, law professors Randall Roth of UH and Melvin Masuda of HPU.

The time line: Thursday through Nov. 12, ballots go out; Dec. 8, ballots are due back; Dec. 10, winner is announced at the state bar's annual convention luncheon.

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