Saturday, August 14, 1999

Trustees’ attorney
fees to be repaid

The pursuit of Lindsey's
ouster was for Bishop's
benefit, a judge rules

By Debra Barayuga


Ousted Bishop Estate trustees Oswald Stender and Gerard Jervis will be reimbursed for attorney fees and costs in their successful battle to remove trustee Lokelani Lindsey.

But how much they will receive will be up to a court-appointed master.

Judge Kevin Chang yesterday ruled Stender and Jervis were entitled to "reasonable" attorney fees and costs, and appointed attorney Robert P. Richards to determine the amount.

Chang denied their motion for reimbursement for fees and costs relating to other estate matters, but left the door open for them to raise those issues again.

Richards is to file a report with his recommendations by Sept. 10. The parties have until Sept. 17 to respond, after which Chang will make a ruling.

Richards was appointed by Chang earlier this year to look into whether Bishop Estate trustees improperly hired lawyers with estate money to represent their personal interests.

In their responses to the fee requests, interim trustees noted that there is an exception to a general rule concerning payment of attorney fees that allows the court to award fees that were incurred in good faith, reasonable, and for the benefit of the trust, out of estate funds.

Attorney Bruce Graham, representing the interim trustees, argued that if the court finds Stender and Jervis acted to protect the estate's interests, it should appoint a master to review the reasonableness and necessity of the fees.

Deputy Attorney General Dorothy Sellers said the state is pleased with Chang's ruling.

The state had argued that since Stender and Jervis prevailed in removing trustee Lindsey, they should be entitled to some fees.

But they should justify their fees fully under existing laws since they are essentially taking money from a charitable trust, Sellers said.

Whatever the master determines as reasonable is the amount the state will seek to surcharge former trustees Lindsey, Richard Wong and Henry Peters, Sellers said.

A hearing on that matter is scheduled for Sept. 3.

Stender had requested reimbursement of more than $2 million, including attorney fees and expenses incurred during the five-month trial to remove Lindsey.

Circuit Judge Bambi Weil ordered Lindsey's removal May 6, saying she was unfit to serve. The next day, Stender resigned, and Chang ordered the removal of the three remaining trustees.

The state agreed with Stender's proposed hourly rates of $225 for lead counsels Douglas Ing and Crystal Rose, and $150 for attorney Bruce Voss.

Jervis had sought a total of $525,620 for his costs and attorney fees in the Lindsey removal petition and several other petitions filed in the last two years.

The state disputed Jervis' request of $220 an hour for attorney Ronald Sakamoto since he wasn't lead counsel.

Trustees Wong and Lindsey took no position regarding the request for reimbursement.

Peters had objected to the payment of fees and costs, arguing the court had no jurisdiction to order reimbursement of fees while Lindsey's judgment is on appeal and still unresolved, and that the estate was not a party to the removal petition against her.

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