Hawaii high court mulls e-signatures in impeachment petition

HONOLULU — Honolulu officials arbitrarily rejected electronic signatures in an impeachment petition, a lawyer for a businessman who wants the city’s embattled prosecutor impeached argued before the state Supreme Court Friday.

Tracy Yoshimura is seeking impeachment of Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro because Kaneshiro received notice from the U.S. Department of Justice that he’s a target in a corruption investigation that took down a retired Honolulu police chief and the ex-chief’s former high-ranking deputy prosecutor.

A lawyer for Kaneshiro, who is on a leave of absence, has said the prosecutor deserves a presumption of innocence. It’s unclear how Kaneshiro fits into the wide-ranging investigation — Hawaii’s biggest corruption case.

Last year, a judge dismissed the petition, ruling that the city isn’t required to accept electronic signatures.

Yoshimura appealed.

His attorney, Keith Kiuchi, told the Supreme Court the city can’t simply reject electronic signatures without first adopting rules to do so.

“And now the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic makes mediums such as electronic signatures even more important and even more central,” Kiuchi said. “As I pointed out, because it allows a form of direct democracy, in this case, specifically the petition to impeach Mr. Kaneshiro.”

Yoshimura had gathered more than the required 500 signatures online via change.org.

When Yoshimura filed an amended petition using a different online platform, DocuSign, he attached the change.org signatures, Kaneshiro’s attorney, William McCorriston, told the high court.

At that point, the original petition was no longer viable, McCorriston said, and the only signature was Yoshimura’s: “Sorry, but you’re 499 signatures short.”

Arguments were held online and broadcast via YouTube to prevent a crowded courtroom during the pandemic.

The justices didn’t immediately issue a ruling.

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