Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Samuel P. King (Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai'i) and Randall W. Roth (professor, University of Hawai'i School of Law) have recently published an extremely well-researched and highly interesting (and shocking) account of the problems arising from the Bishop Estate in Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement & Political Manipulation of American's Largest Charitable Trust (2006).
The following is from the description provided by the University of Hawai'i Press:
Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was the largest landowner and richest woman in the Hawaiian kingdom. Upon her death in 1884, she entrusted her property--known as Bishop Estate--to five trustees in order to create and maintain an institution that would benefit the children of Hawai‘i: Kamehameha Schools. A century later, Bishop Estate controlled nearly one out of every nine acres in the state, a concentration of private land ownership rarely seen anywhere in the world. Then in August 1997 the unthinkable happened: Four revered kupuna (native Hawaiian elders) and a professor of trust-law publicly charged Bishop Estate trustees with gross incompetence and massive trust abuse. Entitled “Broken Trust,” the statement provided devastating details of rigged appointments, violated trusts, cynical manipulation of the trust’s beneficiaries, and the shameful involvement of many of Hawai‘i’s powerful.
No one is better qualified to examine the events and personalities surrounding the scandal than two of the original “Broken Trust” authors. Their comprehensive account together with historical background, brings to light information that has never before been made public, including accounts of secret meetings and communications involving Supreme Court justices.
The book makes captivating reading for the layman—and for the attorney whose focus is in the field of trusts and estates. I suspect the book’s other readers will be as appalled at the abuses which were sanctioned by the Hawaiian public officials, judges, and lawyers as I was. In fact, as I read the book, I could not help having Lord Acton’s maxim that absolute power corrupts absolutely pop up in my mind as Roth and King describe the pattern of scandals plaguing the Bishop Estate. * * * I applaud the authors for their continuing courage in this fight, and highly recommend the book to remind us all as lawyers of our responsibilities to police the systems that we see everyday in our offices!