Police lawsuit files might be opened
By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer
A federal magistrate judge yesterday said she is inclined to rule in favor of a request to make public the court records pertaining to a civil lawsuit filed by a veteran police officer who has accused the Honolulu Police Department's super-secret Criminal Intelligence Unit of corruption and misconduct.
Magistrate Leslie Kobayashi told lawyers for the city as well as The Advertiser, which filed the request to open the records, that she wants to review the arguments made by both sides and expects to rule shortly.
The lawsuit was filed by Kenneth Kamakana, a 29-year HPD veteran who has been decorated several times for his investigations of organized crime involvement in narcotics trafficking. He was transferred out of the Criminal Intelligence Unit last year after he reported evidence of wrongdoing in the unit to the FBI.
The HPD Internal Affairs office also began civil and administrative investigations of Kamakana for turning over police files to the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office. Kamakana's lawsuit claims those investigations were retaliation for his whistleblowing.
Jerold Matayoshi, the city's lawyer in the case, told Kobayashi the files should remain closed because lawyers for the city and Kamakana agreed the records would be kept from public view. At the very least, Kobayashi should review the court records in private and decide which, if any, should be made public, Matayoshi said. Much of what is contained in the court files will become public if the case goes to trial, Matayoshi said.
But Jeff Portnoy, the Advertiser's lawyer, said there is a common-law presumption that court files are public and that the city has failed to establish "good cause" for keeping the court files from public view.