Tuesday, September 30, 2008

 

Maui attorney Lance Collins breaks through Attorney General’s veil of secrecy


by Larry Geller

The Lingle administration has been emulating the secrecy policy of her mentor, GW Bush, and has kept a lid on Attorney General opinions given to state agencies. The number released to the public is reported to be way down when compared to the number her predecessors released.

The opinions are withheld with a claim of “attorney-client privilege.”

But this hides the operation of a state agency from the public whom they serve. In the Akaku case, it’s hard to go up against an opinion that no one is allowed to see.

Maui attorney Lance Collins has achieved a breakthrough. An opinion received today from Circuit Judge Joel August will break loose an AG opinion on whether or not the public access TV contracts must go out to public bidding. He gave the state until November 15 to get a copy of the opinion to him for his review.

Aside from its value to Akaku, to the other public access providers and to those who have supported them with hundreds of individual testimonies, the judge’s opinion may result in the AG having to file (and therefore make available) many of the other opinions that it has refused to share with the public.

You can read the opinion here. It’s a short (13 pages) pdf file. In a nutshell:

Based on the record and the Findings of Fact and the Conclusions of Law, the Court
Grants Plaintiff AKAKU; MAUI COMMUNITY TELEVISION'S Motion for Summary Judgment, in part, against Defendants MARK BENNETT and LAWRENCE REIFURTH. Defendants must submit the opinion letter for in camera review by November 15, 2008. The Court reserves the right to redact portions of the opinion letter which are either protected by the attorney-client privilege or should be kept confidential to avoid the frustration of a legitimate government function. After its in camera review and redaction, if any, the opinion letter will be issued in a subsequent order,

Lance Collin’s success in this case is certainly a victory for Akaku and the people of Hawaii who value their public access TV. It may be useful also for other organizations that have been stonewalled by secret AG opinions.



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