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King's influence vital to 'Broken Trust'

By Leila Fujimori


When Honolulu Star-Bulletin Managing Editor David Shapiro approved running the 6,400-word "Broken Trust" essay in 1997, he based his decision not only on the importance of the message but also on the people behind those words.

Shapiro wrote that the four native Hawaiian co-authors, including federal Judge Samuel P. King, had the wide respect of both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians needed to criticize such a powerful institution as Bishop Estate.

King is considered by many to be the most influential of the five authors of "Broken Trust." He had the unique vantage point of being a part-Hawaiian son of a former trustee, and an observer and participant in Hawaii politics.

As a critic of the management of the Bishop Estate, King had taken on the nation's wealthiest educational trust, with assets estimated as high as $10 billion. Established by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop 126 years ago to run Kamehameha Schools, the charitable trust is the state's largest private landowner and a powerful economic and land-holding institution in Hawaii.

King was joined by prominent Hawaiian leaders Gladys Brandt, former principal of Kamehameha School for Girls; Monsignor Charles Kekumano, a Catholic priest; Walter Heen, a retired state Intermediate Court of Appeals judge; and Randall Roth, a University of Hawaii law professor, in crafting the essay that prompted then-Gov. Ben Cayetano to announce the state's investigation into the trustees' management of the estate.

"We all played a part in the product; everybody contributed," Heen said last night. "I guess Sam was kind of the legal beacon. Whenever people wandered off, he orally banged his gavel. He always made you stop and think either about what you were saying or the direction you were going or whether your efforts or your thinking was contributing to the collaborative effort.

"We all agreed that although it created a great deal of controversy, it hurt a number of people, but what we did was right," Heen said.

"Sam was particularly incensed at the role of the members of the (state) Supreme Court at the time in what we all considered a kind of conspiratorial effort to control the estate."

Roth said King was "widely respected as an extremely knowledgeable judge. ... He had great insights into the history of the Bishop Estate and politics in Hawaii and understood the legal issues thoroughly and had the courage to go public.

"The rest of us looked to him as probably someone who understood the legal issues as well as anyone could," Roth said last night.

"He recognized it was going to be very controversial and upset a lot of powerful people. ... He felt strongly that it was the right thing to do so he did it. ... He was the wisest person I knew."

In the introduction to King and Roth's 2006 book, also called "Broken Trust," Shapiro wrote: "King was a leading critic of the Judicial Selection Commission and believed that instead of removing politics from judgeship appointments, as it was intended to do, it had only moved the politics out of public view at the expense of accountability."

Heen said that he, Roth and King had been meeting at least monthly to discuss, among other things, the situation with the estate now and how it compares with the situation then.

"We were concerned about a lack of openness about the estate, the kind of light that should be shone on what the estate was doing," Heen said.

"All anybody needs to know is you had five strong personalities working on a very explosive situation and issues, and each one of us contributed in a collaborative effort to bring out truth," Heen said. "It was never hesitancy on our part to cover up anything or to try to gloss over anything we uncovered."

In a 1998 interview with the Honolulu Advertiser, King said that although he believed his father was a good trustee, his doubts about the appointment of trustees stretched back to the days after he graduated from law school.

"There were lots of things that people thought were wrong with Bishop Estate -- how they (the trustees) were selected, how they behaved, what they were doing with their investments, how they were handling education," he said in 1998.

"But as (former Hawaii Gov. Benjamin) Cayetano put it (after he ordered a state investigation), everybody figured, 'Well, if the Hawaiians themselves who are involved aren't upset, who are we to upset them?'

"The difference this time is that the Hawaiians got upset first. And actually that's why I'm in it, as a part-Hawaiian and as having been aware of all these things before."

Star-Advertiser reporters Gary T. Kubota and Ken Kobayashi contributed to this report.


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