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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 9, 2010

School blames lawyer in Hawaiians-first dispute

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Eric Grant

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A California lawyer for the Big Island student who challenged Kamehameha Schools' Hawaiians-first admission policy has been accused of misrepresentation by the multibillion-dollar charitable trust.

Kamehameha Schools sued California attorney Eric Grant, the Big Island student and his mother in state Circuit Court in Hilo last year after an Advertiser news story in February 2008 revealed that the lawsuit had been settled for $7 million.

In an amendment to the lawsuit this month, Kamehameha said Grant failed to tell his clients that they would be legally liable if the confidential terms of the settlement were made public.

Grant received about 40 percent of the settlement about $2.8 million for his work on the lawsuit, which was settled just before the U.S. Supreme Court was to decide whether it would hear an appeal of the case.

"It would be unjust for Grant to obtain his share of the proceeds of the settlement agreement where ... he has caused the validity of the settlement agreement to be called into doubt," trust attorney Paul Alston said in court papers.

Grant could not be reached for comment.

Kamehameha Schools' amended complaint asks for damages that would be proven at trial plus attorney fees and other costs.

Grant had represented the Big Island student and his mother, who have never been publicly identified and are known only as Jane and John Doe.

In June 2003, the Does sued to overturn Kamehameha Schools' century-old, Hawaiians-first admissions policy.

U.S. District Judge Alan Kay upheld the admissions policy in November 2003 but a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling in August 2005, saying the admissions policy constituted unlawful racial discrimination.

By an 8-7 vote, the full 9th Circuit upheld the policy a year later before the lawsuit was settled as Does' attorneys were preparing an appeal before the Supreme Court.