Editor’s Note: Today's unanimous Hawaii State Supreme Court ruling will allow any Hawaii governmental body to hide corrupt dealings in bogus ‘Executive Sessions’ simply by paying a shyster to sit in and twiddle his thumbs.
Totally Connected: Slush Fund: House Speaker Offers OHA $100M To Stop Lying About Kakaako High Rises
Key Background: OHA Sacrifices $3.2M to Hide Lawyer’s Conflict of Interest?
OPINION OF THE COURT BY EDDINS, J. April 5, 2023
In this declaratory action, two constitutionally created state agencies square off over two major laws, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes (HRS) § 23-5 (2009 & Supp. 2014) and the attorney client privilege, codified in HRS Chapter 626.
The Office of the Auditor believes HRS § 23-5 empowers it to receive all records of an auditee, even attorney-client communications. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the subject of an audit, sued. It argues HRS § 626-1, Rule 503 (2016), the lawyer-client privilege, overcomes the auditor’s authority and preserves the confidentiality of attorney-client communications.
We hold that the Office of the Auditor lacks authority to pierce the attorney-client privilege and obtain an auditee’s confidential communications.
We also reject the Office of the Auditor’s jurisdiction and non-justiciability bars to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ suit.
PDF: Full Ruling
Law.com: 'Stalemate' Over Legislative Power: Does Auditor's Office Have Privilege in Attorney-Client Communications?
SA: State Supreme Court rules with OHA in dispute
Apr 5, 2023: SCAP-21-0000701 The Office of Hawaiian Affairs v. Kondo.
Feb 28, 2023: Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court — SCAP-21-0000701
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“I was disappointed…” -- Trustee Keli‘i Akina’s statement on OHA v. Kondo
News Release from OHA Trustee Keli’i Akina, PhD, April 6, 2023
Honolulu, HI - In response to the recent Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruling in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs v. State of Hawai‘i Office of the State Auditor, OHA Trustee-at-Large Keli‘i Akina, Ph.D., made the following statement.
“Personally, I was disappointed in the decision of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court which denied the state auditor access to the unredacted executive session minutes of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs,” said Trustee Akina. “OHA is a state government agency, and the people of Hawai‘i and the beneficiaries of OHA have a right to expect transparency and accountability. I understand that the court based its decision on its interpretation of ambiguous state laws. Perhaps those laws need to be re-examined by the legislature. There must be a way forward that permits the state auditor to obtain the documents needed to conduct accurate and robust audits.”
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OHA Board Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey’s statement on today’s victory in the OHA v. Kondo lawsuit
News Release from OHA, April 5, 2023
The OHA Board of Trustees is extremely pleased with today’s unanimous decision from the Hawai‘i Supreme Court in the appeal brought by the State Auditor.
OHA was confident that the Court would affirm the trial court’s decision that the State Auditor overreached in its request to access and review attorney-client privileged communications between OHA and its legal counsel.
Today’s decision preserves the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege, which is critical to the Trustees’ fulfillment of their fiduciary duties to our Native Hawaiian people.
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