Friday, November 13, 1998

Lawyers in
Bishop case have
busy day in courts

Four estate-related suits are
on the dockets of three
judges today

Teachers take the stand

By Star-Bulletin staff


Call it a game of musical courtrooms.

Lawyers involved in the Bishop Estate controversy can expect a marathon of a day as the state Circuit Court today played host to four separate legal proceedings involving the multibillion-dollar trust.

The day began with a 9 a.m. hearing before probate Judge Colleen Hirai on matters involving the estate's court-appointed master, Colbert Matsumoto, and the Internal Revenue Service's three-year audit of estate operations.

Matsumoto had recommended that the estate appoint a three-person panel to address the IRS review, saying the trustees may be in conflict since they may be targets of the IRS probe. Trustees said they are not in conflict.

After hearing arguments today, Hirai took that issue under advisement but made no ruling.

Later this afternoon, the judge was to hold a status conference with estate and state lawyers over Attorney General Margery Bronster's request to temporarily remove estate trustees. The conference will set a date for evidentiary hearings on the interim removal request. Hirai was expected to ask Bronster which trustees she would like to see removed.

At 10:30 a.m., Circuit Judge Kevin Chang was to hold a hearing on Bronster's motion to modify protective orders for records gathered during her yearlong investigation of trustees.

Bronster wants to use the information -- including trustee Henry Peters' tax returns and documents the estate provided to the IRS -- in upcoming removal trials. She is seeking the permanent removal of at least three Bishop Estate trustees, saying they engaged in a pattern of self-dealing and mismanagement.

The estate, on the other hand, is seeking Chang's permission to appeal previous subpoenas approved by the court. It needs Chang's permission to appeal the state subpoenas to the Supreme Court.

Circuit Judge Bambi Weil, meanwhile, had scheduled a 1:30 p.m. hearing on protective orders for information gathered in the Lindsey removal case. Attorneys for the trustees said that some of the information should be withheld from the public, saying it is protected by attorney-client privilege and other privileges.

Bronster's office, as well as attorneys for the local news media, is opposing the motion.

Bishop Estate trustees Oswald Stender and Gerard Jervis have petitioned the state courts for Lindsey's removal from the estate's five-member board, alleging she breached her fiduciary duties and is unfit to serve as a trustee.

In many ways, the full court schedule underscores the strains that Bishop Estate-related litigation is placing on the state Judiciary. The controversy, one of the biggest series of court cases to hit Hawaii, not only is tying up the civil court calendar, but is also stretching the department's already-thin resources.

During the first 10 months this year, attorneys for the estate and their opposing parties have filed an average of 87 documents each month. During the same time, they have submitted more than 116 depositions under seal.

Teachers testify how
Lindsey hurt morale

By Susan Kreifels


After Bishop Estate trustee Lokelani Lindsey released a report on poor aptitude test scores by Kamehameha School's Class of 1997, a student asked art teacher Charlene Hoe: "Am I stupid?"

Kamehameha math teacher William Follmer's students had a similar reaction when they learned about the report in the news media.

"We're not very good, are we?" they asked Follmer.

"I spent the rest of the class telling them they should be proud," Follmer testified yesterday before Circuit Judge Bambi Weil.

In the hearing on the possible removal of trustee Lindsey, the two Kamehameha teachers described how controversies over Bishop Estate trustees and Kamehameha Schools have hurt students.

"The impact was immediate and deeply felt by students," Hoe said.

Both said they opposed making the test-score report public and not sharing it first with the school.

"Friends teased them about going to that 'stupid school,' " Hoe said.

Four people who testified yesterday disapproved of making the report, compiled by Lindsey, public in December 1997.

"I was appalled at that information in the paper," said Roy Benham, president of Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association for the Oahu region. "That afternoon I went to the campus and held a sign that said 'You're OK, we support you.' "

Hoe said that students before had a "respectful awareness of the trustees." But this year, for the first time, a student asked to do a caricature of Lindsey for an assignment.

Hoe also said Lindsey's treatment of faculty was "not positive." Lindsey "belittled an instructor in front of all the staff." She said art hanging in a classroom "looked like laundry."

"It was demoralizing," Hoe testified.

Witnesses said such incidents led them to support Lindsey's removal as a trustee.

The hearing is being held after trustees Gerard Jervis and Oswald Stender petitioned the state court nearly a year ago to remove Lindsey from the estate's five-member board.

The proceedings on their request are separate from a petition by state Attorney General Margery Bronster that seeks the removal of Lindsey, and trustees Richard Wong and Henry Peters.

Attorney David Gierlach, who is on Lindsey's defense team, asked witnesses if they had done anything to get firsthand knowledge to verify rumors floating through the schools. The witnesses said no, and also said they didn't know if Lindsey had approval from the other trustees to release the education report.

In other testimony, Winona Beamer, a respected educator and former Kamehameha teacher, said she wrote letters to the editor protesting a decision she had heard about that would not allow staff to teach new Hawaiian words, but only traditional ones.

"We would be living in the dark ages," she said.

Retired Judge Patrick Yim, who completed a four-month investigation into the board's management of Kamehameha Schools, is scheduled to testify Tuesday when the hearing resumes.

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