Monday, March 9, 1998

Three turn
down role
in Bishop

The judicial conduct commission
members recuse themselves

By Rick Daysog


Three members of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct have recused themselves from taking part in an advisory opinion sought by the state Supreme Court on Bishop Estate matters.

Darolyn Lendio, an attorney for the Bishop Estate; Benjamin Matsubara, a former court-appointed master for the Bishop Estate; and local IBM Corp. executive Anton Krucky recused themselves from the matter last week, according to Gerald Sekiya, the commission's chairman.

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the seven-member commission for an advisory opinion on whether the high court can hear appeals filed by the Bishop Estate to subpoenas issued by state Attorney General Margery Bronster. The decision was criticized by some local legal experts and community leaders.

In seeking the commission's opinion, the Supreme Court rejected Bronster's request for an expedited ruling on her petition that the court recuse itself from hearing Bishop Estate matters.

Bronster had argued that she is investigating the trustees selection process and may have to subpoena the justices, who selected the current estate trustees.

The recusals leave the commission with just four members to work on the advisory opinion. The commission requires a quorum of four for decision-making.

The remaining members include Sekiya; retiree Judith Fong; Shigeo Iwamoto, a retired insurance executive; and Sharon Narimatsu, a vice chancellor for student and community affairs for the University of Hawaii's community college system.

Commission members serve four-year terms and are appointed by the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Ronald Moon could not be reached for comment this morning.

But Jim Branham, staff attorney for the high court, said the Supreme Court may not have been aware of the need for recusal by some commission members.

Sekiya declined comment on the reasons for the recusals.

He said he hopes to have an opinion within a week.

Lendio, who has represented the estate before the Circuit Court and state Supreme Court, said she recused last week to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

"It's the right thing to do," Lendio said.

IBM executive Krucky's reason for recusal was not immediately known.

Last Thursday's high court decision was harshly criticized by some local leaders who believe the court should step down on Bishop Estate matters to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

"This is a classic no-brainer," said Randall Roth, local trust law expert and co-author of the "Broken Trust" article that prompted the state's investigation into the estate.

"To me it's bizarre that the justices would ask for an outside opinion on a question with such an obvious answer."

Beadie Dawson, attorney for Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, which represents Kamehameha Schools students, faculty and alumni, has said the high court's decision could delay the state's investigation and bring harm to students and the schools.

The state attorney general is investigating charges of financial mismanagement and breaches of fiduciary duties by individual trustees.

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