BY JIM DOOLEY – A Big Island mother and child who accepted $7 million in 2007 to drop their legal challenge of Kamehameha Schools’ “Hawaiians-first” admissions policy will return $1.4 million.
The repayment settles a lawsuit filed against the Big Island pair — identified only as Jane and John Doe — and California attorney Eric Grant after the $7 million payment was publicly disclosed in 2008.
The disclosure came from another lawyer, John Goemans, who had previously represented the Does and who believed that the Kamehameha Schools were obligated under federal and state law to publicly report the settlement amount.
Goemans died in 2009.
Kamehameha Schools, one of the wealthiest non-profits in the world, sued for return of as much as $2 million because the $7 million figure was supposed to be confidential.
“A stipulated judgment against the Does for $1 million plus $400,000 in legal fees and costs has been entered in favor of Kamehameha Schools,” the schools announced yesterday.
The Does and Grant separately issued apologies as part of the latest settlement.
“We deeply regret having become involved in the current litigation with Kamehameha Schools, we are very sorry for the harm caused to the schools, which led to this lawsuit. We are sorry for Mr. Goemans’ actions,” the Does said through their lawyers.
Eric Grant said, “I deeply regret that Kamehameha Schools was deprived of confidentiality, which was an important benefit of the 2007 Settlement Agreement.”
Trustees of Kamehameha Schools said they were “pleased” with the outcome of the litigation.
“The settlement provides just compensation to Kamehameha Schools for the wrongful behavior of a member of the Does’ former legal team and for the Does’ and Grant’s expressions of regret. Kamehameha will receive payment from both the Does and Grant for the harm done, and we have avoided the expense and distraction of another time-consuming court case,” the trustees said in a written statement.
The Does originally sued Kamehameha Schools in federal court here in 2003, claiming that the policy of giving preference to children of Native Hawaiian ancestry violated federal civil rights laws.
The lawsuit was carried all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court but was withdrawn after the Does accepted the $7 million settlement payment.
Kamehameha Schools is one of the largest non-profit institutions in the country, with assets estimated at $7 billion to $8 billion.
Formerly known as the Bishop Estate, the institution’s wealth and charitable mission give it a central role in Hawaii society. Thousands of part-Hawaiian students, from kindergarten through high school, are educated at campuses on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.
Tens of thousands more children of Hawaiian ancestry receive outreach educational assistance annually from the schools.
The Bishop Estate was created under the 1884 will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, who endowed the institution with large tracts of land throughout the state. Some of that property, including sections of oceanside property in Waikiki, is now among the most valuable real estate on the planet.