Politics in Hawaii: Is Something Broken?


(page 5 of 7)

Where were the Consequences?

I’ve described the lack of accountability for the Bishop Estate trustees, their lawyers and the many legislators and hangers-on who abused Princess Pauahi’s trust, and the way the Judicial Selection Commission managed to extend three of the justices’ terms in office without apparently discussing the “Broken Trust” authors’ memo. One might wonder if those justices were ever held accountable by other oversight organizations such as the Judicial Conduct Commission (an appointed, governmental body that is supposed to take action when a judge in Hawaii acts unethically), American Judicature Society (a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization whose mission includes building public confidence in the system of justice) and Hawaii State Bar Association (the state’s licensed lawyers).

So far, none of these “watchdog” organizations has said anything about the many allegations of serious judicial misconduct. For example, investigators with the attorney general’s office found numerous instances in which justices kept in touch with trustees through private conversations—even in the days when Kamehameha Schools alumni were marching to protest the trustees’ leadership. Or consider also the Bishop Estate internal memo, discovered by law enforcement personnel in a secret wall safe at Kawaiahao Plaza, that detailed how “CJ Moon” ought to handle the trustee-selection process, at a time when insiders were seen as angling for a way to get former Gov. John Waihee named as a trustee. However, it was as if, once the trustees who brought so much attention to the estate were removed in 1999, any thought of holding the justices accountable for their role ended.

Last year, when I learned that the Hawaii chapter of the American Judicature Society had formed a committee on judicial accountability, I asked to appear before them and made the following statement:

“Something is wrong with the system of judicial accountability when serious questions can be raised about the conduct of a state’s entire Supreme Court without an official body either coming to the defense of those justices or taking steps to hold those justices accountable. Given the seriousness and specificity of the allegations in the Broken Trust essay and book, one would expect some kind of response. Thus far, the silence has been deafening.”

I suppose it was predictable that the Judicial Conduct Commission would do nothing; after all, Moon selected its members. And he did not just select them; he held them over when their terms expired.

Maybe you’re wondering why more people don’t know about such cozy relationships. Perhaps it’s because the workings of the Judicial Conduct Commission, like those of the Judicial Selection Commission and, now, the Regent Selection Panel are cloaked in secrecy.

During my appearance before the American Judicature Society committee on judicial accountability, I invited its members to ask me anything about what Judge King and I had written in Broken Trust.

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