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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Supreme Court won't hear Damon case

By Audrey McAvoy
Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to consider a case disputing how the remains of the $900 million Damon Estate should be distributed among the 19th-century banker's descendants.

The move left standing a ruling by Hawai'i's top court that half of the estate should be divided among the descendants of one of two sons of Samuel Mills Damon. The other half of the estate would go to the descendants of another son.

The Supreme Court did not explain its refusal to get involved in the case.

Attorneys for both the petitioner, Christopher James Damon Haig, and the respondents the Damon Estate, Sharon Damon and other estate heirs did not return calls seeking comment.

The Damon Estate was established in 1924 when Damon, who headed what is now known as First Hawaiian Bank, died at the age of 79. Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, in her will, had awarded Damon a business partner of Bishop's husband much of the lands that made up his estate.

Damon was born in Hawai'i in 1845 to a father who came to the Islands as a missionary.

Attorneys for some of the great-grandchildren argued the trust's assets should be equally divided among Damon's 20 great-grandchildren.

Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall struck down that idea when she ruled that the trust's assets should be split equally between the two lines created by Damon's sons, Samuel and Henry. The state Supreme Court upheld her ruling.

The estate is being divided now because the last of Damon's grandchildren died in November 2004. Damon's will established a trust that would be dissolved when the last of his grandchildren passed away.

The estate had been selling its assets in recent years in preparation for dissolution.

In 2001, the estate sold its stake in First Hawaiian parent BancWest Corp. to French banking giant BNP Paribas for more than $500 million. The stock sale represented about half the value of the trust.

In 2003, the trust sold most of its commercial land holdings, including 220 acres of light industrial and commercial properties on O'ahu, to a Massachusetts company for $466 million.

The estate also sold more than 100,000 acres of land on the Big Island the former Kahuku Ranch to the National Park Service to expand Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

In March, rare coins, medals and bills from the estate including an 1880 bank note from the Kingdom of Hawai'i were auctioned off for a total of $3.8 million.