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Thursday, November 23, 2000

Lawyer told
to stay away
from Luab family

The mother of two girls hit
by a van says Bill Canlas
harassed her after she
switched lawyers

By Ian Lind

A Honolulu attorney who until recently represented two sisters who were struck by a van and seriously injured in an Aug. 22 accident in Kalihi has been ordered to stay away from his former clients.

The court order, approved by Circuit Judge Kevin Chang on Tuesday, prohibits attorney Guillermo "Bill" Canlas or members of his staff from attempting to contact Evelyn Luab or her daughters, Hilovelyn and Switzer.

Hilovelyn, 10, has been in a coma since the accident, in which a third girl was killed.

Canlas represented the family until Oct. 26, when they retained the law office of David L. Turk to pursue the case.

According to documents filed in court, Canlas harassed Luab for weeks after being removed from the case, making repeated telephone calls and personal visits in an attempt to get the case back.

At one point, Canlas allegedly refused to leave the Luab's home until he was told police had been called.

Turk finally hired a 24-hour security guard "to keep Mr. Canlas away from her," court records show.

Canlas also failed to properly account for two $10,000 insurance payments and other funds, including several thousand dollars in public donations meant to assist the family, and repeatedly failed to turn over the files from the case to Turk when requested, court records show.

"This is very important from a lawyer's point of view," Turk said. "He's got her file with all this personal information, and the people who really represent her don't have her file.

"I've been doing this for 28 years and have never seen anything like this."

Canlas said he was dumped from the case just one day after refusing a late-night request from Luab for money for her father in the Philippines.

"Mr. Canlas very clearly told Mrs. Luab that the money was for the children and that the money was not for her to send to her father. The matter generated into a heated conversation between Mrs. Luab and Mr. Canlas," according to an account filed in court by Canlas.

"The money belongs to the kids, and not to Mrs. Luab," Canlas said yesterday.

Canlas accused Turk of "targeting" Luab and pursuing her as a client in violation of professional guidelines, and dismissed Turk's allegations as part of a "propaganda war."

Canlas now represents Hipolito Luab, the natural father of Hilovelyn and Switzer.

Turk has filed a complaint with the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel, charging Canlas with violating professional guidelines.

Luab said in a written declaration that Canlas urged her not to trust Turk "because he is white."

"He told me that white people don't trust Filipino people and that white people don't do a good job for Filipino people," Luab charged.

Canlas denied making those comments and said Luab was confused and having difficulty choosing between the two attorneys.

Chang's order requires Canlas to "provide a complete, detailed accounting of all deposits and expenditures" intended for Luab and her daughters.

"As soon as we recover the money, we'll make sure it is used for the benefit of the Luab family," Turk said.

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