The Hawaii Supreme Court today ordered Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro to respond to a petition filed by the state attorney general seeking to suspend the prosecutor while a federal corruption probe moves forward.
The order filed this afternoon gives Kaneshiro 20 days to answer the petition submitted Tuesday by Attorney General Clare Connors asking the court to revoke the prosecutor's law license. According to media reports, Kaneshiro has received a letter informing him that he is a target of investigators.
Kaneshiro has declined to take leave from his office pending the investigation, subjecting multiple cases handled by his office to possible legal challenges, his critics say.
Loretta Sheehan, Honolulu Police Commission chair and a former deputy prosecutor for Honolulu, said Kaneshiro’s power adds a conflict of interest to a number of cases. She said on HPR's The Conversation that it's wrong for him to remain in office.
The federal probe has already ensnared a former deputy prosecutor, Katherine Kealoha, who worked under Kaneshiro. She is scheduled to go to trial next month on allegations that she and her husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, framed an uncle for stealing their home mailbox.
Several current and former police officers are co-defendants.
A separate federal indictment unsealed Tuesday also accuses Katherine Kealoha and her physician brother, Dr. Rudolph Puana, an anesthesiologist, of dealing in opioids.
A federal grand jury indictment also alleges Katherine Kealoha steered law enforcement away from scrutinizing her brother after police told her that he was buying cocaine.
Meanwhile, a hearing in state Circuit Court has been scheduled next month on a online petition aiming to impeach Kaneshiro. The effort is led by businessman Tracy Yoshimura.