In re Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest

The Law Center moved to unseal search warrant materials and related filings in connection with United States v. Leong et al., 21-CR-142 LEK. Search warrants typically are withheld from the public before an indictment is filed so that potential targets cannot prematurely learn about the criminal investigation and destroy evidence or flee the jurisdiction.

The motion was assigned to the Honorable Leslie E. Kobayashi.  On October 21, 2022, Judge Kobayashi unsealed the case dockets and set a procedure for reviewing attorney-client privilege claims to certain documents.  No. 22-MC-438.  The unsealed dockets and additional documents subsequently unsealed revealed that the proceedings focused primarily on a process initiated by the Government to determine whether the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege applied to four recordings of conference calls among employees of the City and County of Honolulu concerning the process for paying former Honolulu Police Department Chief of Police Louis Kealoha $250,000 after he received a target letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Judge Kobayashi deferred ruling on further issues concerning claims of privilege by the City and County of Honolulu pending decision on certain motions filed by the Defendants in the underlying criminal case.  The Defendants’ motions presented similar questions about the scope of attorney-client privilege and the crime-fraud exception, and resolution of the motions would impact whether various records should remain sealed.  Once Judge Kobayashi resolves Defendants’ motion, the Law Center will have an opportunity to renew its request to unseal additional court records.

Related:  Defendants filed several motions in the underlying criminal matter that address in part issues related to attorney-client privilege and the crime-fraud exception.

Unsealed:  Judge Kobayashi ordered numerous documents unsealed, but the City informed the Law Center on March 23 that, due to the City’s poor document review, several documents were “inadvertently” unsealed.  Although the documents remain publicly accessible through court records, the Law Center has removed the unsealed documents from this site out of an abundance of caution until Judge Kobayashi reviews the City’s latest claims.