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Thursday, March 16, 2000

Sen. Ige made right
decision on Anzai

Bullet The issue: Sen. Marshall Ige has announced he will not vote on the confirmation of Earl Anzai as attorney general.

Bullet Our view: This was the correct decision, avoiding a blatant conflict of interest.

IN excusing himself from voting on the nomination of Earl Anzai as state attorney general, Sen. Marshall Ige certainly made the right decision. There was no need to keep the community in suspense as long as he did waiting for him to make up his mind.

Ige, of course, is under indictment on charges of campaign spending violations stemming from the investigation of the former Bishop Estate trustees, an indictment obtained by the attorney general's office. For him to vote on the confirmation of the state's chief prosecutor, who is responsible for pursuing the case, would have been a travesty.

As Ige explained, a vote by him to confirm Anzai could have been construed as an admission that he had been properly charged, while a vote against confirmation would have been seen as retaliation.

By making his announcement, Ige in effect took the pressure off Senate President Norman Mizuguchi, who had refused to bar him from voting on Anzai. The citizens group Common Cause Hawaii, prompted by Mizuguchi's refusal, had called on the Senate to investigate Ige's conduct.

To this Mizuguchi responded that Common Cause was attempting to deny Ige his constitutional right to a fair trial. With Ige's announcement, there seems no point in pursuing the call for a Senate investigation when a criminal trial is pending.

Whatever the merits of the charges against the senator, he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. By excusing himself from voting on Anzai's nomination, Ige has avoided disgracing himself and the Legislature.

Judges’ disclosures

Bullet The issue: The federal judiciary's policy-making body has rejected a committee's recommendation that judges' financial disclosures be withheld from the Internet.

Bullet Our view: The decision is an important step toward greater public access to voluminous government material.

FEDERAL judges and other high-ranking federal officials are required by law to report all stock holdings and other family assets within broad ranges of estimated worth.

Judges have never been greatly concerned about the disclosure because few citizens take the trouble to look them up in the labyrinth of federal files. The Internet has changed that. After a good bit of squirming, the judiciary has dropped its challenge to an online display of the disclosures. This is a hopeful sign for easier public access to government documents generally.

The judiciary is the last federal bastion against public access. Sunshine laws that apply to the executive and legislative branches of government have left courts in far too shadowed comfort.

The U.S. Supreme Court even refuses to allow cameras and recording devices in federal courtrooms, although television coverage of state court proceedings has found nationwide acceptance.

The Internet offers access at a different level, providing users with volumes of material too vast to fit neatly into a television newscast or a newspaper article., an Internet news organization that covers crime, justice and safety news, posted on its Web site the financial disclosures of federal judges and made plans to display those of all 1,600 judges and magistrates.

The online display made it possible to determine whether judges were abiding by rules that bar them from deciding cases in which they have a financial interest. The judiciary cried foul, even though all the information was a matter of public record, on paper in government files.

The U.S. Judicial Conference's committee on financial disclosure voted last year to change the rules to prohibit "disclosure of a report to any person who has not made a written application" for the material, intended to effectively block Internet display of the information. Facing outrage in threatened congressional hearings -- and at Chief Justice William Rehnquist's urging -- the Judicial Conference has rejected the recommendation.

The committee based its recommendation for barring the posting of disclosures on the Internet on security concerns. The decision by the full conference allows judges to ask that what they deem to be security-related information be deleted from information to be disclosed. Abuse of this exception would only allow the issue to resurface and cause further embarrassment.

Golf course purchase

Bullet The issue: The state has rejected a city proposal to purchase a golf course in Maunawili to replace the Ala Wai course.

Bullet Our view: The Maunawili course might be a valuable acquisition but forget about closing the Ala Wai course.

THE state has rejected a city proposal to purchase the Luana Hills Country Club in Maunawili to compensate for the proposed conversion of the Ala Wai Golf Course into a park. Governor Cayetano's position is that the replacement golf course should be located at Sand Island.

Luana Hills is reportedly for sale for about a fifth of the $100 million spent to develop it. In addition to the golf course, the sale would include about 800 acres of wilderness that could be used for hiking and camping. However, the city can't afford to buy the property and wants the state to help -- and the state refuses.

The purchase might make sense, particularly because of the wilderness area, but not in connection with the Ala Wai situation. The state ought to drop the plan to develop a park there and let the golf course remain. It is, after all, the most intensively used course in the whole country.

Instead of building a replacement course on Sand Island, the state should improve maintenance of the much-neglected Sand Island State Park.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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