The Lawyers and Judges
The bills are here. It is imperative to remember Frances had no independent representation until 2006 (Charles Alailima), despite that she was in many lawyers’ offices throughout.
Charles Ala’ilima, Pago Pago and Washington State
Charles Alailima regards himself as an old family friend, and indeed, John and Dotsy adored him. He did John’s probate, and at the time advised that he could manage the entire Lena estate for us. We declined then, foolishly believing we did not need help. He represented Frances in her 2004-2006 suit. He has a Facebook page.
Jason Annandale, Apia, Samoa
Annandale was retained by the plaintiffs to conduct the title search for the sale of Fagaiofu to the Haleck Family, a necessary step and expense, since defendants did not produce an original or even a good copy of a good deed until after the title search was done. Mr. Annandale soon stopped participating in any litigation after the search was done. He has a Facebook page.
Richard Chun, Honolulu, Hawaii, now retired.
Attorney Chun first helped out with Dotsy’s Hawaii guardianship proceedings, and was later retained to assist Frances in coming to terms with the implications of the events surrounding her land transfers. Mr Chun is a person of great dignity and humor. We are still looking for his photo.
Porter Devries, Kona, Hawaii
Porter was retained by Plaintiffs to prepare motions and Memoranda on behalf of the plaintiffs when it appeared that the work was unduly burdensome. Porter wrote motions for admissibility of evidence of the BFK Board meeting minutes and for life estates; revisions were made at plaintiffs’ request. He advised against a motion for summary judgment based on the intention of 1982 Agreement signers; ironically the very procedure and remedy the judge ordered. None of Porter’s work was used. Porter writes beautifully and had no deadline problems ever. He has a website. His excellent work is here and the conversation with him about the intention of 1982 and other matters is here.
Murray Drake, Apia, Samoa
Murray Drake is a very senior attorney retained long ago in 1978 and thereafter to investigate the titles in Lena’s estate, then by the family to record the 1982 transfers, and was finally retained by Mike to file his deed for Fagaiofu in 1984. His work appears everywhere, especially on the Fagaiofu Love Deeds.
Paul Freese, Los Angeles, California
Now a distinguished and senior lawyer specializing in elder abuse and poverty advocacy in Los Angeles,Paul Freese was retained in 1978 to have Frances advocate to the BFK Board for an audit of James Kneubuhl’s conduct as Trustee of Lena’s estate. James agreed this step was perfectly appropriate. A single (curiously undated) correspondence is about all we have of his participation in the matter.
Roy J.D. Hall, Pago Pago
Mr. Hall needs no further introduction; he was retained by defendants for the litigation, after years representing family members and the BFK Board, which was thought to be a conflict of interest. He was given employment opportunities when young to support his schooling. Despite their continuing promise, the lawyers failed to move for his disqualification. He closed Lena’s probate, without notice to Mike, presumably because he was aware that he was no longer an heir or beneficiary. He is accessible on YouTube here.
Richard Higbie, Newport Beach, California, of the firm Cummings and White.
Mike’s long time friend was retained often over the years to “help out” in Samoa. He is especially noteworthy since subject of a disciplinary action. He was suspended, but not disbarred, in California as a young attorney, and his case remains the judicial standard for the state bar for drawing a line between misconduct and moral turpitude which is always followed by disbarment. The case: In re: Higbie may be viewed here. The issues were whether allegedly arranging (or not) air transports and drug sales are concerning. They have a website. He appears often in the BFK notes.
Jackson Solicitors Firm, Apia, Samoa
This firm was retained by family to research Lena’s Western Samoa lands, their registration, and the estate issues surrounding them. Their extensive research appears here.
The Honorable F. Michael Kruse, Pago Pago, High Court
Before becoming judge, then attorney Kruse was retained by Mike for the 1978-1982 matters. Hall immediately had him recused from the present litigation. This was entirely proper, of course, but then it was thought that Hall ought to have recused himself for a similar conflict of interest stemming from 1982.
Latham and Watkins, Los Angeles, California
Retained by James as Kneubuhl family counsel in the 1978-1982. James also considered them his personal representative defending himself against any allegations of breach of fiduciary duty and for the “audit” begun by then plaintiff. James arranged that their files be sent to Robin after the Alai suit began 2001 or 2002. There were four transfiles, many replicated here. The files were carefully redacted by Latham and Watkins prior to shipment, so the whole story may never emerge, regretfully. Latham and Watkins did all of the writing and research which won the will contest and the trust contest for James, Ben and John. They have a website.
Sharon Rancourt, Pago Pago
Attorney Rancourt was retained in 2017 to assist Frances in her matters. She has a background in public interest and pro bono law in Boston, Massachusetts. She closed her Pago Pago office November 10, 2017 leaving Frances, for the 2nd time, without counsel. Frances proceeded pro se thereafter.
David Ringold, New Haven, Connecticut
Attorney Ringold is a very expensive, high end Trust and Estate lawyer who used to work for Robin, and who was retained by plaintiffs to evaluate, advise and identify statutory and common law implications of the trust and the nature of interests in the trust.He spent a lot of time with David Vargas. None of his work went before the court, but his advice was invaluable. Ringold went to Yale, as did Judge Richmond. Attorney Ringold’s work is excellent, time honored black letter law of trusts, and ought to be adopted, or at least reviewed, by the Samoan polity. But, for our litigation purposes, that would have required joining the American Samoa government as a party, or at least as a minimum consulting them. Neither attorney would do that. So, we were forced to present the implications of their statute at the High Court without benefit of their participation. Anyway, our challenge was to interweave this law with the American Samoa Statute which did not permit non-natives (Lena’s children and grandchildren) to own land. David Ringold’s research and opinions are invaluable, and absolutely certainly way too expensive for the plaintiffs to pay for. His work and the conversation within are here.
Fiti Sunia, Pago Pago
Fiti was retained initially to represent Frances and then to replace David Vargas in 2014. He is now a District Court judge, finally approved by the Fono in April 2016. During the trial in October 2015, the pending job as judge was not disclosed. He won the case and should be very proud.
David Vargas, Pago Pago
Now retired from Rose, Joneson and Vargas. David Vargas was initially retained by Ben and Margaret in 2004 or 2005 to oppose Frances’ planned sales of land to the Jennings and others at Olo. He led the trial at their request to prevent the sale of the “Coke House” at Olo. His role expanded to address other trust concerns, including the Memorandum of Understanding, and revisions but the representation became burdensome to him, and he asked to withdraw on several occasions. We accepted in 2014; Fiti Sunia replaced him. The Vargas family has a Facebook page.