Saturday, November 3, 2001

Panel investigating Felix
decree spending vows
to challenge ruling

By Crystal Kua

The Senate-House committee probing state spending to comply with the Felix consent decree will respond in some fashion to a court order killing a subpoena for a witness, its co-chairwoman said yesterday.

"The committee is uniform -- it does not believe that we should just simply sit back and take it," Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae) said. "We want to do something, but we've got to be sure that a lawyer a tells us where to go."

Hanabusa said the committee is waiting to hear from Attorney General Earl Anzai on whether one of his deputies will represent the committee.

"I'm confident that the attorney general sees the need," she said. "And I think that if he can find someone within his own department, that he will afford us an attorney."

The committee members feel strongly about the work they're doing and public sentiment is behind them, she said.

"We do not take lightly when a sitting federal court judge says that we are obstructing justice or that we are acting in a McCarthy-like manner," she said.

At the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. District Judge David Ezra on Wednesday threw out a subpoena issued to Judy Schrag, who was a court-appointed member of a panel that provided technical assistance to the state on the Felix consent decree, the federal mandate to improve special education in Hawaii.

In July, Ezra also blocked the subpoenas for court monitor Ivor Groves and his assistant Juanita Iwamoto, ruling that the committee had no authority to order court-appointed officials to testify.

But Hanabusa said Schrag is different because she has testified in other venues.

Hanabusa also said state law requires that the attorney general enforces the subpoenas but the representation is complicated because two deputy attorneys general already represent the state departments of Education and Health in lawsuit that resulted in the consent decree.

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