Perennial GOP candidate allowed to resign law practice

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The state Supreme Court allowed a former Republican state legislator who lost the 2016 U.S. Senate race to incumbent Democrat Brian Schatz to resign from the practice of law rather than face the high court’s Disciplinary Board over alleged attorney misconduct.

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The state Supreme Court allowed a former Republican state legislator who lost the 2016 U.S. Senate race to incumbent Democrat Brian Schatz to resign from the practice of law rather than face the high court’s Disciplinary Board over alleged attorney misconduct.

In an order dated June 30, John S. Carroll, 87, was allowed to voluntarily surrender his law license but was ordered to do so within 30 days of the order’s filing.

Carroll requested to be allowed to continue the practice of law until Oct. 31. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a petition against Carroll on Oct. 21, 2015, and after a formal hearing, hearing officer Barbara Franklin recommended that Carroll be disbarred. His case was then referred to the Disciplinary Board.

“I was planning to retire, anyway. I was before the board, and I was looking at a possible suspension,” Carroll said Wednesday. “And I was given a copy of a law that says you can resign in lieu of discipline. So, I thought, ‘Well, if I can do this and get this over with.’ For one thing, you know, I’m planning to run for U.S. Senate.”

Carroll lost GOP gubernatorial primaries to former Gov. Linda Lingle in 2002 and former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona in 2010, and a Senate primary to Lingle in 2012. He was defeated by former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the 2000 general election.

He said he plans to seek the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Mazie Hirono, who defeated Lingle in 2012.

According to ODC’s petition to the Disciplinary Board, in 2013 Carroll misappropriated funds by improperly depositing retainer checks from a 92-year-old Keaau woman, since deceased, for $5,000 and $3,500 into his office business account instead of a client trust account.

Carroll said that was true but denied any fraud or theft in the case, in which he also was accused of a conflict of interest as both the woman’s attorney and the attorney of a 65-year-old man who later married the woman, who was wealthy.

“In this particular case … there’s a whole lot of messed up stuff,” Carroll said. “I went in, got the work done, which included doing a new trust, revoking an old trust, new will, arranging for a person to get married — a hell of a lot of stuff done — and didn’t invoice them at all. And then, somewhere along the way, they gave me a check, which I did not put into the trust account. Because I knew I did the work and had earned the money, I put it into my operating account. That’s a no-no, and you’re supposed to follow this other operating procedure. And I did that twice. And I let the ODC know that, so I admitted to that.

“The other thing is, they charged me with representing this guy and his wife, adversely, one against the other. And the fact is, this woman is, like, 92 years old. The guy is 65 years old. He’s marrying her ostensibly to take care of her. Supposedly, he loves her. But she became incompetent. And I told him you need to set up a guardianship (of the woman) and conservatorship (of her financial estate). I filed that. There is some question about his relationship with her by the kokua kanawai (court-appointed conservator). Long story short, they granted (the man) the temporary guardianship but they denied the conservatorship.”

Carroll also was accused of charging the woman excessive fees, a violation of the Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct. At the request of the conservator, who also is a lawyer, Carroll agreed to reduce his fee request from $26,442.71 to $17,706.

The other case involved a lease dispute between a Molokai woman and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and Carroll described charges that he acted improperly in the case and made “misrepresentations to ODC that were knowing, misleading, false and dishonest” as “totally false allegations.”

Carroll is appealing the high court’s order on the basis he hasn’t been given enough time to wrap up his law practice. He also hinted the court-ordered quick shutdown of his practice could be politically motivated.

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“There’s something very fishy going on,” Carroll said. “I didn’t practice 51 years … to do all the things necessary to close a law practice in 25 days. It’s just absurd. Everybody on that Supreme Court is either Lingle-appointed or Democrat-appointed. And I really, really cannot understand why they would do that. So I asked them to reconsider this.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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