High court rebuffs
move for stiffer
sanctions on lawyer

The Hawaii Supreme Court will not reconsider an April 1 order publicly censuring Honolulu attorney Alvin Sasaki for ethical misconduct from 1988 to 1990.

In a two-page ruling issued Friday, the Supreme Court denied a motion by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) to impose a stiffer sanction.

The justices also had ordered in April that Sasaki, a staff attorney with the Supreme Court since 1993, perform 300 hours of community service.

The ODC, which investigates lawyers accused of ethical misconduct for the high court's Disciplinary Board, had argued previously that community service was not allowed under Supreme Court rules and that Sasaki should have been given a three-year suspension consistent with prior high-court orders.

The ODC had found that Sasaki falsely notarized legal documents and hid his misconduct from his attorney when he was earlier investigated for falsely notarizing another document. The ODC also found that he had lied under oath in a civil deposition and later when questioned by the ODC.

ODC is the staff for the Disciplinary Board, which makes recommendations to the Supreme Court.

In its order on Friday, the panel -- made up of the same substitute justices who issued the April 1 order -- said the Disciplinary Board's arguments are "without merit" and are based on an "erroneous" view that the purpose of discipline is punishment and that rules restrict the types of discipline the high court can impose.

They said Supreme Court rules do not preclude them from using their inherent powers to impose other appropriate discipline.

Carole Richelieu, chief disciplinary counsel, said the ODC position on the matter has not changed. It is the first time in her 14 years with ODC that a disciplined lawyer has been sanctioned with community service.

Sasaki has five remaining months or until Nov. 30 to complete his 300 hours of community service under the supervision of the Oahu Circuit's Adult/Juvenile Community Service and Restitution unit.

The censure does not prevent Sasaki, who was admitted to the Hawaii bar in 1978, from continuing to practice law. Sasaki did not return calls for comment.

Keith Agena, Sasaki's lawyer, declined comment on Sasaki's case, saying the court's order speaks for itself.


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