State briefs for October 17

State closes nature reserve cliff popular with climbers

WAILUKU, Maui — The state closed access to a cliff face in a nature reserve on Maui because of concerns that rock-climbing activities are threatening native plant species and modifying the rock face.

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The state Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the cliff closure in the Lihau section of the West Maui Natural Area Reserve. The closure will continue for up to two years, officials said.

The state Division of Forestry and Wildlife requested the change to protect rare and endangered plants on the cliff and in the surrounding area.

Rock climbers installed hardware and footholds into the cliff, which affects threatened and endangered plants such as the Maui chaff flower and the Menzies’ schiedea, officials said.

The dry cliff ecosystem is home to vegetation that grows on steep slopes in areas receiving less than 75 inches of rainfall per year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Modifying geological features is prohibited under state law, and continued use of the walls for rock climbing exposes the rare plants to more damage, forestry and wildlife officials said.

Climbers hiking to the cliff also are creating a danger of trampling or breaking West Maui’s only known population of yellow hibiscus, officials said.

Lawyer adds to claims about prosecutor who shoved him

HONOLULU — An Oahu attorney made additional claims of misconduct against a prosecutor who shoved him in a courthouse altercation, according to court records.

Lawyer Myles Breiner said Honolulu Deputy Prosecutor Emlyn Higa attempted to have a relationship with a witness in two cases he was prosecuting. Breiner’s filing said Higa also drafted legal documents for the woman’s civil case while he was a Maui deputy prosecutor, visited her home at night while intoxicated and assaulted her adult son.

Higa denied the claims by the defense attorney and called them “as distressing, confusing and disheartening to me as they are false.”

A judge’s three-year injunction issued Oct. 8 prohibits Higa from contacting, threatening or harassing Breiner after Higa shoved Breiner on Sept. 18 in Honolulu’s 1st Circuit Court building.

The order prohibits Higa from visiting Breiner’s home or office, but does not prevent Higa from handling criminal cases involving Breiner’s clients.

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The document filed Friday in state Circuit Court is part of Breiner’s attempt to disqualify Higa from prosecuting one of his clients for attempted murder.

Circuit Judge Paul B.K. Wong is the presiding judge in the attempted murder case. Wong heard arguments Sept. 26 on Breiner’s request to disqualify Higa, but has yet to rule.

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