Friday, January 19, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 19, 2001

Court briefs

By William Cole
Advertiser Staff Writer

State’s attorneys evaluate judges

The Hawaii state judiciary has released the results of an evaluation of 29 state judges by 987 attorneys in the sixth report on the Judicial Performance Program.

On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being poor and 5 excellent, Circuit Court judges were rated 4 for legal ability, 4 for judicial management skills, 4.1 for comportment and 3.9 for settlement and/or plea agreement ability, according to the judiciary report. Eleven Circuit Court judges were evaluated between Aug. 2 and Aug. 17.

Eight Family Court judges who were evaluated between Sept. 11 and Oct. 6 received an average score of 4.1 for legal ability. The mean score for judicial management also was 4.1, while the judges received 4.3 for comportment, and 4 for settlement and/or plea bargaining ability.

Ten full-time and part-time District Court judges were evaluated from Oct. 23 to Nov. 24. The legal ability average was 4, settlement and/or plea agreement ability 3.9, and judicial management 4.1. The average for "judge’s characteristics," based on responses from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree," was 3.3.

Goals of the program, established in 1993, include improving judges’ performance and providing the Judicial Selection Commission with a source of information for retention decisions.

Grand jury indicts 2 in welfare fraud

The Oahu grand jury has indicted Suani Faafia, 55, of Wahiawa, on charges of first- and second-degree theft of fraudulently obtaining welfare benefits over 11 years totaling $128,830, according to deputy attorney general Rick Damerville.

Faafia concealed his wife’s presence and employment, Damerville said.

Woman indicted in prostitution case

A woman who owned a massage parlor that authorities say was a front for prostitution has been indicted by an Oahu grand jury on charges of promoting prostitution, money laundering and two counts of unlawful ownership or operation of a business.

City Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee said Kim Young Suk Johnston, 46, averaged $80,000 to $100,000 a month in cash income at Kim’s Hula Hand in the Century Center building at 1750 KalŒkaua Avenue. The business later changed its name to Fantasy, authorities said.

Johnston operated the house of prostitution between July 1995 and April 1999, according to the indictment. Johnston was arrested in 1999 as the result of an undercover operation, Lee said. She is believed to be in South Korea, he said.

Lee said Johnston used the money to maintain a lavish lifestyle, including the purchase of jewelry and expensive cars. The United States has an extradition agreement with South Korea, "which means we can go after her," Lee said.

State chief justice reappoints judge

Chief Justice Ronald Moon reappointed Barclay E. MacDonald as a part-time District Court judge on Maui.

Moon also designated MacDonald to act as a part-time Family Court judge.

MacDonald’s term became effective Tuesday and expires on Jan. 15, 2002.

Murder victim’s family sues suspect’s parents

The parents of a Waialua man charged with the 1999 disappearance and murder of a vacuum cleaner salesman are being sued by the missing man’s family.

The parents of Melchor Tabag, whose body has not been found, accuse Frederick and Carolyn Lawrence of negligence in a lawsuit filed this week in Circuit Court.

Michael Lawrence, 23, is accused of murdering Tabag after authorities say the 41-year-old Kaneohe man made a sales call at Lawrence’s home on March 27, 1999. Later that night, police stopped Lawrence, who was driving Tabag’s car, and said they found a bloody knife, a meat saw and a hammer in the car.

The lawsuit says that Carolyn Lawrence was aware of the carpet-cleaning demonstration given by Tabag. Shortly afterward, Tabag received an injury at the home "which rendered him unable to move or stand," according to the complaint.

Carolyn Lawrence and her son were aware of the "serious bodily injury," suffered by Tabag, but failed to come to his aid or call police, the suit states. Michael Lawrence also is named in the suit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages. The family could not be reached for comment. Defense attorney William Jameson previously said Lawrence is expected to use insanity as a defense in the trial scheduled to begin March 26.

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