Ex-police chief’s attorney calls for law school to rein in criminal law expert

Louis Kealoha leaves federal court
Louis Kealoha leaves federal court
Published: Mar. 30, 2019 at 4:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The court-appointed defense attorney representing Honolulu’s ex-police chief in a broad federal public corruption case is calling on the dean of the University of Hawaii’s law school to silence one of his employees ― at least on matters related to the case.

Ken Lawson, UH Manoa criminal law professor
Ken Lawson, UH Manoa criminal law professor

In a six-page letter to UH Law School Dean Avi Soifer, defense attorney Rustam Barbee targets associate faculty specialist Ken Lawson and questions his many statements to the media about the case against former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha, who has been indicted on dozens of counts.

Barbee contends that Lawson is improperly casting Kealoha as guilty before a trial is even underway.

“This is especially disturbing because Professor Lawson is co-director of the Richardson Law School’s Innocence Project, which seeks to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals,” Barbee wrote.

“If HIP’s goal is to prevent innocent people from being convicted, Professor Lawson and the Richardson School of Law by association should not be in the business of publicly assigning guilt to a defendant before his or her trial is even held.”

Barbee closed his letter by telling Soifer that Lawson should be fired if he can’t refrain from “public comment opining on the guilty of pretrial defendants and the viability of their defenses.”

Lawson teaches criminal procedure, criminal law and professional responsibility at the law school, and is a former attorney who lost his license after getting into trouble with the law.

He’s long used his experiences to weigh in as an expert on criminal law.

In a statement, Lawson said that he won’t be “bullied by former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha, former deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha or their court-appointed lawyers into being silenced."

He added, “As a longtime attorney and a decorated criminal law teacher at the law school, I am often asked to give expert legal opinion on criminal law issues that concern the public. I understand the concept of free speech and I am not afraid to speak out on controversial legal issues that touch our community.”

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