School's $7M deal raises ire, eyebrows
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By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Jim Dooley
Yesterday's disclosure of the $7 million payment made by Kamehameha Schools to settle a civil rights lawsuit prompted questions and anger from individuals on both sides of the schools' controversial admissions policy that gives preference to students of Native Hawaiian ancestry.
"It does seem like a lot of money. It sure would be if it was in my pocket," said University of Hawai'i law school professor Jon Van Dyke, who served as a legal consultant to Kamehameha in the lawsuit.
Van Dyke said yesterday he wasn't part of the settlement discussions and still believes the payment led to the right outcome for the school.
The settlement was signed in May just before the U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to announce whether it would hear an appeal of the case. Terms of the settlement had been kept confidential until this week. John Goemans, an attorney for the plaintiff in the case, revealed the $7 million figure to The Advertiser.
The settlement meant that an earlier 8-7 vote by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of Kamehameha's admissions policy is still the prevailing law.
H. William Burgess, a local attorney who filed legal papers with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the plaintiff in the case, said yesterday, "Wow. The settlement was much larger than I thought."
Burgess said he still believes the case should have been heard by the Supreme Court so that legal questions surrounding the school's Hawaiians-first admissions policy were settled.
"I actually think the trustees of the Kamehameha Schools have a legal duty, when there's a legitimate legal question about what they're doing, to seek a resolution of the issue," Burgess said.
News of the $7 million payment provoked more than 500 online postings to The Advertiser that variously criticized school officials who approved the payment and the lawyers and the client who received the money.
Beatrice "Beadie" Dawson, a native Hawaiian attorney who is active in Kamehameha Schools affairs, said yesterday the settlement itself and now news of the $7 million amount "are like an open invitation for more lawsuits."
"I was very dismayed by news of the settlement last year and I was very surprised by the size of it today," Dawson said.
Hawai'i attorney David Rosen, who last year announced plans to file another legal challenge to the school's admission policy, confirmed this week that the lawsuit is taking shape but has not been filed.
He issued a news release yesterday reacting to the settlement amount that said, "The people of Hawai'i should be outraged that the trustees of Kamehameha Schools place a higher value on discriminating rather than educating."
Goemans, the lawyer who publicly revealed the $7 million figure, said he believes the settlement should be a matter of public record given Kamehameha Schools' status as a tax-exempt charitable institution.
Goemans helped bring the civil rights lawsuit against Kamehameha in 2003 on behalf of a non-Hawaiian student denied admission to the high school. The student and the student's mother, who live on the Big Island, have never been identified except as John Doe and Jane Doe.
Goemans also said the settlement is subject to review by the Internal Revenue Service and by the state attorney general's office, which oversees Kamehameha Schools' annual financial accountings filed with state Probate Court.
Attorney General Mark Bennett could not be reached for comment yesterday.
David Fairbanks, a Honolulu lawyer serving as the appointed "master" who must review Kamehameha's financial fillings for the Probate Court, did not respond to a telephone message for comment yesterday.
Reach Jim Dooley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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