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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 2:19 p.m., Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ninth Circuit rules HPD records should be open

 •  PDF: See the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling

Advertiser Staff

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a stinging rebuke of the Honolulu Police Department's continuing efforts to block public access to court records alleging police corruption.

The ruling was issued today, upholding a Honolulu federal magistrate's earlier decisions that most records originally filed under seal in a civil rights lawsuit against the police department should be open to public view.

The whistleblower suit, filed in 2000 by HPD detective Kenneth Kamakana, was settled in 2003 with payment by the city of $650,000 to Kamakana. But city attorneys, later joined by the U.S. Justice Department, continued to resist legal requests by The Honolulu Advertiser to unseal records filed in the case.

The first requests to unseal document in the case were made in 2002.

Today's opinion, written by Appellate Judge M. Margaret McKeown, upheld Magistrate Leslie Kobayashi's repeated rulings that documents filed in the case should be open for public review.

"We embrace the judge's decision to carefully review every document in light of the change in intervening law and in the face of the somewhat tepid and general justifications offered for sealing," the opinion said.