To the readers of my documentary books;
To all who support truth and justice;
To all who advocate the Rule of Law;
To all who will move forward from the inadequacy or pretense of protecting the U.S. Constitution;
To all who can look back at their lives and say, “I earned my living with morality, grace and honesty, skills and competence. I am proud and deserve to live in America;”
To clients, loved ones and friends all over the world.
I love you all!
Greetings! Aloha! Mabuhay!
Author-Attorney Erlinda Dominguez
Twice Upon a Court is the compelling saga of one woman’s journey from a village on a mountaintop in the Philippines, to a Law Professorship in a University and finally to a thriving law practice in the Island Paradise, Hawaii.
In a modest and unassuming manner, Erlinda Dominguez tells step by step the harrowing story of how she came to be attacked and very nearly destroyed, personally and professionally, by members of the Legal Community, who had every reason to be biased and judgmental against her success, yet allowed their biases to influence their judgment.
Ms. Dominguez worked hard for the interests of her law clients, who were trying to obtain justice in personal injury cases, and she helped many people gain their rights under the law. When she herself was placed in jeopardy, she had great faith in the American Legal System, an institution that her father had always told her was the finest in the world. Sad but true, a system is only as fine as those who administer it, and they are unfortunately only human after all.
The author found herself virtually penniless, deprived of her law office and practice that she had built up from scratch, and beset on every side by unfair and questionable tactics from those who seemed determined to ruin her. She is now telling her story as a testament to truth, and also as a fascinating and in many ways horrifying cautionary tale to those who may be too inclined to trust that people mean what they say.
Her first book, Twice Upon a Court is a deeply revealing look behind the scenes of American Jurisprudence, from the point of view of an intelligent and warm-hearted woman who rises to a position of trust from which she is able to win justice for her clients, only to be denied justice for herself.
317 Pages, Quality Paperback Edition,
The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out, and after an era, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the heart of men centuries dead.
Finally, but not the least:
—I love you all, The Author
Days thereafter, Brian and I again met for breakfast. I told him of the office and my possible options. He knew I was serious. He was intently listening.
“I intend to refer new clients to other law firms. Many lawyers have been calling, even writing me. I wonder how they know,” I said.
“They have the crumbs and you have the cake,” remarked Brian with a chuckle. “Who are those lawyers contacting you anyway?”
I mentioned a few including Agena, Graulty, Martin, Griffith, and Kidani. I knew them to be successful attorneys.
“The word is around that cases are coming out of your ears and clients line up to see you. The legal community likes to gossip when it comes to news like that. Even Hisaka, Agard, or Chung may be interested, who knows,” said Brian.
“They have stable and decent law firms, as far as I know. It may be nice to meet with them.”
“If I were you, I would choose Price, Okamoto, Himeno and Lum.”
That law firm was better known for its initials, POHL. For years, they have been called “Pohl” for short. “Why do you prefer them?” I was curious.
“Well, it’s actually none of my business, but everyone knows the Himeno family is extremely rich. Mr. Price is the recent State Attorney General, highly profiled and always in the news...their firm must really be very, very powerful, that’s public knowledge, oh, yeah.”
“I heard that said by many, but I don’t really know Mr. Price and his office.” And I stared at Brian’s face feeling somewhat scared at our topic and the words we were saying. “I don’t understand what power has to do with anything. I’m just in legal practice, and I certainly don’t need their money,” I said.
Brian raised his eyebrow. I may have looked like a simpleton.
“I’m not implying anything, Erlinda. It’s completely up to you. You asked and I answered. I don’t know more than what the public knows of them. They are always in the papers.”
Breakfast was over. I grabbed for the check but Brian had already paid. As usual.
In a few weeks, there was an urgent message on my desk. It was from Warren Price.
“Have you heard about the China Airlines disaster in Japan?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s all over in the news, but I’m not familiar with the details.”
“We should sign up all the Filipino clients.” My mind was racing. They want me to be the bait.
“Warren, the clients are Filipino. They never set foot in Hawaii. The accident happened in Japan, the Airline is foreign. How in the world can we get U.S. federal jurisdiction here?”
I could hear his subtle laugh. It seemed he was on the loudspeaker and had people in his room.
“Don’t worry, kiddo. We will do all the work.”
That’s real power, and I still don’t know how and what it means, I thought to myself.
Ken Okamoto of Pohl and my manager, Mila, traveled to the Philippines. Flor Martinez went with them. He was my close friend who worked at the Philippine Consulate in Hawaii.
I provided them with the names and numbers of my friends in high esteem in the Philippine government who might be of help.
They brought a bunch of my business cards and the Philippine magazines where my Honolulu office was profiled.
One week in Manila—with first class hotels and accommodations—was expensive. But it paid off. They were one hundred percent successful.
Ken signed up each and every possible client, from serious injuries to wrongful deaths, all Filipinos, right in their hometown—in the Philippines.
I, a Hawaii lawyer, was actually retained as an attorney for people I never met. They just heard of me and saw my face in the Philippine magazines.
“Is this really ethical, Ken?” I asked upon their arrival in Honolulu.
“Of course, it is. We are only helping the unfortunate.”
The following morning, I dropped by my attorneys' office to bring research materials. I had no intention of staying. But Roy came out of his room and said, "Hi, there." He seemed to be in a good mood.
"May I see you in your room, Roy? Just one minute of your time, please?"
"Of course. Come in. What's up?"
He pressed his intercom and called for Harvey to join us. It was no longer strange. Both had to be present when I was their audience. I convinced myself it was for their convenience, so that one did not have to repeat to the other what was discussed.
A question crossed my mind. "Is this the kind of news that my attorneys should know?"
I preferred to be safe than sorry.
It was rather embarrassing. Neiman Marcus, store sales, shopping sprees, perfume and so on, could hardly be the topics in a serious case. But I had to tell them. They had to know.
I explained what happened. I was hoping their answer would put my mind at ease.
"You see...Sharon did not wish to speak to me in Neiman Marcus. I'm positive she saw and heard me. Did anything happen that I should know about?"
"The problem, Erlinda, is you ruffle feathers," said Roy.
"I'm not totally sure of what you mean. I don't speak your language with precision," I said.
"What Roy means is you irritate people," said Harvey. I could not tell if he was smiling or sneering.
"I irritate people?"
"Pohl is upset."
"Oh, you mean Pohl, not people. What about?"
"About your discovered hidden treasures," said Roy.
I knew that they had shown the records that I found to Sharon. They must have hand-carried them to Pohl's office. It was in the next building, just a few steps away.
"I discovered proof of their involvement, Roy. Who would expect a problem like this after a decade?"
“We don’t know. But very possibly. She has a lot of judicial discretion.”
“I’m not hoping for favorable discretion, Roy. I just want the laws equally applied. I ask for no favors.”
Everything was again turning into a blur. I did not know what to say, what to suggest, what to do.
Harvey looked at both Roy and me. “I just have this sickening feeling…there is a purpose in what’s happening.”
“Harvey, whatever your unseen purpose is, I find it totally immoral to settle!”
I left their office, passing by the feng sui arrangements and decorations in their waiting room. They were similar to Pohl’s feng sui arrangements.
* * *
I read the transcript when it arrived. Roy and Harvey were not lying. After long debates among the attorneys about the Hague Treaty and the Japanese foreign laws, the judge ruled in a short single paragraph which read verbatim:
THE COURT: "I have to confess. I'm sort of shooting from the hip in trying to respond to your question about when and how do you want the Court to decide on the law, I guess. But I would encourage you to file an early motion in limine."
Although I had a good idea, I later asked Harvey what the American slang of shooting from the hip meant exactly, in relation to the serious court proceedings-words I never saw in the law books, or heard in a courtroom.
He explained-it was a cowboy shooting wildly without any target, in this case, the issues.
"Harvey, with all due respect to the court, instead of guessing as she admitted, the judge seemed determined to have the jury interpret the Hague treaty and the Japanese laws, which is not their role to do. She was already talking of motion in limine-the procedure to sort out the proper evidence shown to the jury. Why?"
"I have no explanation, Erlinda. We can't force judges to do what we want even with tons of research. Our role is limited."
My worry was overwhelming. I had to bring up my deep concerns with my attorneys.
"Was the judge actually sending us a message that a different judge should take over? It would be too burdensome for her if she never encountered this kind of problem before. Who knows, this had always been what she wanted-to get out of the case. That would be fair to her and to everybody."
"We don't think so. If we said something, it will also be a guess. It will lead us nowhere. We think that you're being repetitious and you are appearing more ridiculous."
As I walked away from their office, I just said softly, "You don't have to raise your voice. Your services are not free. I have been paying you big time!"
* * *
I had hardly seated myself comfortably when Roy began to talk. "Erlinda, be prepared for what we are to tell you!"
"We filed our Motions in Limine early as Judge Marks suggested-to guide her on how to rule on the Hague Treaty and the Japanese laws. But she ruled the same way, all those legal questions will go to the jury," said Roy.
"And the judge has admitted into evidence bulks of papers that will assure the opponents' winning without supporting live witnesses," added Harvey. "She will continue to admit just papers."
"What do you mean bulks of papers?"
"Just papers. Papers that the judge did not screen. They will be the opponents' evidence."
Harvey looked angrier as he continued to explain.
* * *
"Do the Barnedos have any live witnesses or will they just haul their piles of records and papers into the jury room?"
"They have Allen Williams as their legal expert. He flunked the bar examinations in California, made it the second time around, and now works here as an attorney in a law firm. Those are his expert qualifications," explained Harvey.
"And Williams is supposed to be better than you, me, my associate attorneys, and the Hawaii federal court? Now, I know you were kidding all along and I did not even know it."
"Erlinda, this is a desperate situation. Listen well to everything we're telling you. We don't have much time," said Harvey.
"If he testifies, what exactly will he say?"
"That your office and the federal court were both wrong in the method of service of the summons to the Japanese Company."
"Please tell me that everything is just a very sick joke!"
There was no joke.
* * *
When the court transcript of the hearing on the motions in limine arrived, I read them away from my attorneys’ presence.
In that hearing, the attorneys were trying to convince the judge of what evidence the laws and rules permit to be shown to the jury for its consideration.
Harvey attempted to exclude any testimony of my former associates that would be a personal attack on me.
A portion of the discussion between Harvey and Judge Marks appears in the transcript of February 26, 2003, verbatim:
MR. DEMETRAKOPOULOS: We don’t want, we have had conversations with other people who were unhappily brought into the case and dismissed. They said if I had to testify I am going to talk about Erlinda Dominguez is a bad lady to work for. Slave driver.
THE COURT: I think one of the things would probably come out, and I’m guessing, but that she ran the office in, sort of parceled things out to people, so that the guess is so that they could not steal her coffer.
MR. DEMETRAKOPOULOS: If that is in fact the case, I am not aware of that.
It was hurtful. The judge who was presiding in my case was getting personal, talking about my fear of someone stealing my coffer. And I was not even there to defend myself.
My researchers explained what the comment meant: Silas Marner hoarding his gold! That was never how I ran my legal practice, not even when I contracted with Pohl.
How could the judge guess about my office and my coffer? Why would she even guess at all? Guesswork has no place in courts and my coffer is not the jury’s business. She’s always guessing and it is completely out of topic.
In my mind, I interpreted what the judge said in the Filipino dialects. In Ilocano, ti pugtok ket tapno saan da nga matakao daydiay baul ti kinabaknangna.
In Tagalog, sa tingin ko, para hindi nila nakawin yong baon nang kayamanan niya.
In Igorot, kinwanik, to adida mentakawen san binaul nga kadangyan na.
I thanked Harvey for making a short statement in defense of my office and told him what others thought the coffer implied.
“Harvey, how can I be so prejudged in a courtroom during a serious and formal judicial proceeding with such a description?”
“Don’t dwell on it, Erlinda. You are not at all that way. In fact, you’re the opposite. The judge does not know you yet and did not mean anything. She had never mingled with you”
“Does the judge have anything against me, Harvey? As you said, she does not know me yet.”
“Of course, nothing, Erlinda.”
I drove to the Kahala Hilton Hotel where we watched the dolphins play in the pool. Then, to Mokapu. The hang gliders were high up in the sky with their colorful chutes. They looked so free and untouchable. They must be happy.
We went to the Waikiki Beach and mingled with the crowd. A few feet away from our bench on the sidewalk were women in their string bikinis. I felt funny in my formal suit attire.
"You can join them if you want," I said. "All you have to do is take off your pants." But she preferred to talk.
We started to reminisce about our office...during my heydays...before it was taken over by the law firm of Pohl.
The employees and our friends who came in all forms-carpenters, nuns, radio announcers, leaders in the community, doctors, hotel workers, and so on-we remembered them all.
Multitudes of clients. They were precious in a professional and personal way. We talked with nostalgia-remembering how our toils helped them fulfill the American dream-buy their houses or send their children to school even with their severe disabilities.
That was our break for happiness from my ordeal of the trial.
"Why is this happening to you, Erlinda?" asked Mila.
"I wish I knew."
"Why not Pohl instead of you? They took over your office and managed the cases."
Mila did not know about Pohl's tolling agreement that left me to be sued alone. She had no idea that Roy and Harvey refused to involve Pohl for me.
"My law office had been the front line, Mila. As you know, Pohl used my name, Law Offices of Erlinda Dominguez. I am sued alone. But you are right. They should be here instead of me. At the very least, they should help me."
“Jennifer, they have avoided me. They must feel I am disruptive of their style.”
“Arrogance has no place to protect a client. You should have defended yourself alone. You were the best lawyer for you. It baffles my thinking that you did not.”
“Jennifer, you know what they say. If you are a doctor, don’t do surgery to yourself. I am taking care of clients who are depending on me. I have hardly enough time for my case. Don’t discourage me over something that’s beyond my control. There are many things in my life that I can’t change, and what you just said is one of them.”
“I have to go. They might see me here. Good luck!”
I looked at Jennifer hurriedly walking away. Another small fry in the community.
* * *
The lunch break was over. Roy and Harvey stepped out of the elevator and approached the courtroom. I was seated on a bench and stood up to greet them.
I handed Jennifer’s research to Harvey and a copy to Roy. I asked Roy to please do something. That was a fatal mistake.
“Please don’t take offense, we are in this together, I’m just trying to help my case,” I said almost in fear.
Roy yanked the papers from my hand and shoved them into his briefcase. I suspected he knew the repercussions of what he did, but it was much too late.
My attorneys did not say a word. They just proceeded to their desks in the courtroom.
I remained seated on the bench in the lobby. The two people who were defending me had been alienated.
The bailiff called for me, “Ms. Dominguez? We’re ready, please come in.” I walked in politely and formally. As a lawyer defendant.
The advertisement of Allstate Insurance Company on TV was frequently aired. The host did it so well…“The courtroom is a lonely place to be if you are sued…Allstate will defend and protect you…you are not alone, you are in good hands.”
The ad could be a tearjerker. My first job in the United States was with Allstate.
Of course, I was sued. Of course, the courtroom is a very lonely place to be. But to answer the question, “Am I in good hands?” I did not need an answer, or, I really did not know.
Q. Now, Mr. Williams, if the Hague Convention did not require a return receipt of a signed letter and Hawaíi law on the other hand does require that, which law takes precedence?
A. The issue of whether the Hague--whether you can serve by--mail, I--I’m losing you in that because I--there is a question--
Q. Let me refer --
A. --as to the service of a complaint.
Q. Let me--
A. Let me finish.
As to the service of a complaint whether that is proper under the provisions of Article 10.
A. For the purpose of exercising jurisdiction and the enforceability of an action, you would have to look to the Hague.
Q. Because the Hague supersedes any state procedural law; isn’t that right?
A. Not in total.
Q. Well, let me read you this. And again, I’m taking this from the AmJur, the same treatise we have here. It states that because the Hague Convention is a treaty--
MR. O’BRIEN: Objection, Your Honor. If we’re going to read something, could we have a citation and section so there’s a record of it.
MR. CHANG: I’m sorry.
THE COURT: Please.
MR. CHANG: AmJur Second, Section 379 under the Process section of the AmJur.
THE WITNESS: Uh-huh.
I whispered, “The judge must now be seeing the obvious. It is purely a legal question for the court’s legal construction, not the jury.”
Harvey scribbled, “Shh!”
My mind started to play tricks. I imagined me standing up and yelling, “Objection! Objection! Objection! You cannot do this in a court. You cannot practice your law profession on me. Choose another case for that!”
I looked at Harvey and pleaded in a whisper, “I need help. I’m seeing marsupials in the room, kicking me on the face. And they are all in technicolor. I must be hallucinating.”
“Mine are giraffes and they are polka-dotted.”
Obviously, Harvey did not believe me. He forgot I had the same human frailties. I could have been delirious—he would not know.
Hardly a week passed since the verdict. I had my phone lines open for any call from my attorneys or legal researchers, perhaps, even from Pohl.
I was on my way to the office. The phone rang. It was a long distance call from my sister, Helen, in the Philippines. “Our mother is sinking. She was rushed to the hospital.”
“Oh, my God. What happened?”
“She heard about the verdict. It did not come from us. We tried to keep it from her. She collapsed.” My sister was sobbing.
“May I speak to her, please? I am appealing. Tell her not to worry, not to be ashamed. Tell her to be happy.”
“She must not be disturbed. She is resting.”
I went to the Waikiki church nearby. I asked to talk to a priest. Nobody was around. I contacted my friends and relatives to pray for my mother.
The next day, my sister called. “Mamang has passed away.”
How I wished I was never a lawyer in Hawaii, the United States of America. How I wished I never listened to my father when he said that it had the greatest and fairest legal system in the whole world, and that is where I could really use my mental and moral skills.
The trip was difficult. Passengers had to wear masks because of the SARS virus. I arrived in Manila and proceeded to Baguio City where the wake services were occurring.
I entered the funeral home in the late evening, tired and haggard. The room was crowded with relatives, friends, and well wishers. Many were in their Igorot tribal costumes and chanting native songs. Their eyes were focused on me. I proceeded to the coffin where my mother lay.
My mother’s face was peaceful now. I whispered, “Please forgive me, Mamang, for causing your death! I must tell you—I am not guilty of any wrongdoing. I am just the victim of ugly circumstances.”
Back in Hawaii, I did not tell my attorneys that the verdict was my mother’s death sentence. She was a strong woman. Besides, the news would reach my many enemies that early, including my opponents. That could be one of their trophies over me.
Ken and Sharon were solemn. They wanted me to do the talking. It was almost scary, but it never crossed my mind that they could have tape recorders on.
“Judge Marks will soon execute on her judgment and the opponents will collect against all my assets. You know that I have no insurance,” I said. “Please hurry up. Please hurry up!”
I felt awkward mentioning the name of Judge Marks. That very moment, Robert Marks, her husband, could be with Warren Price, steps away from the conference room—knowing I was there discussing the almost 1.5 million malpractice judgment of his wife against me.
How fitting that they are now together in practice. They were both the Attorney General, one after the other. How lucky they were. They have everything this planet could offer!
“We’ll see what we can do,” said Ken.
Sharon asked to be excused. She had to see members of her family. I continued to talk a little with Ken.
“I was never told of any disclosure done by Judge Marks that her husband is with you in this office until your testimony in court, Ken. I did not know. I’m in turmoil. I need help. I’m so confused about what is ethical and what is not. In fairness to the judge, she said she disclosed, but her disclosure was not in the records or in anybody’s notes.”
Ken was silent and was just observing me.
“I never encountered this situation in my career. Is Mr. Marks in your office right now? Are you going to tell him what we discussed?” I worriedly asked.
Ken said, “We don’t talk of outside things, and we know that Robert Marks does not talk to his wife about your case or any cases for that matter. Very respectable couple.”
It was obvious that he wanted me to leave, but was polite.
“Good day, Erlinda. We have to call up our insurer and get back to you,” Ken said as he walked me to the elevator.
Mr. Marks does not talk to his wife about cases and both of them are lawyers—one a past attorney general and the other, a relatively new trial judge?
As I walked back to my office, I knew that I just did not fit into that kind of a highly civilized society. As I heard said before, not in their circle.
“Don’t worry, Jennifer. You will be paid in cash for your work. I just have to go to the bank. I have had no time to do personal stuff.”
I walked over to the First Hawaiian Bank. Years before, I called their attention to a mistaken million dollar deposit into my account. They never forgot my immediate reaction.
Tricia, the teller, recognized me. There was no need for ID. She looked at the check, her computer, then stared at the screen. “Just a moment, Ms. Dominguez.”
She stood up and talked to her supervisor, Iris. I could see them checking the computer and reading some records.
Then, Tricia walked to me and said, “We’re so sorry, all your accounts have been garnished in a case against you and your office. We’re sorry, the bank has to comply with court orders.”
I could not immediately speak.
“Does that include my clients’ trust account?”
“Yes, Ms. Dominguez. All of your accounts, including your clients’ trust account.”
“But that belongs to my clients...my God!”
While in the bank, I contacted Roy. “All of my accounts have been garnished, didn’t you know? Even my clients’ trust account is frozen. That means, I cannot practice law.”
Roy was in a panic. “That’s impossible. That can not be done. How? When? That’s illegal. That’s really unethical. The bank should ignore that.”
“I’m coming to your office right away.”
Roy and Harvey were waiting for me.
“How can I survive? I don’t have a penny in my pocket!”
“We’ll talk to your opponents and see if they will agree to ask Judge Marks to lift her Orders,” said Roy.
“My gosh!” exclaimed Harvey as he browsed through the website. “There must be a hundred garnishee summons and subpoenas against you circulated in the State of Hawaii! We were not even notified by our opponents or by the court.”
“Let me see,” said Roy. He joined Harvey in reading the long list. They were both literally in horror.
My opponents served their garnishee summons and subpoenas to the schools, the police department, travel agencies, hotels, banks, credit unions—and many companies all over Hawaii.
“That’s pure harassment,” I said. “I have no money in those entities. They don’t even know me. I’m being humiliated throughout this State. They want my practice to be crippled. My opponents know where my accounts are. They are in the records.”
“Judge Marks approved all the summons and subpoenas, Erlinda. If a judge signs the orders, there’s no harassment.”
“I’m so angry at Price Mikimoto for what they’re doing to you. I’m also very angry at your malpractice attorneys. What were their names again? Ching? Chung? Chang and Demetrious? I’ll show them,” he said.
I could hear him breathing heavily.
“Thank you very much, Mr. Smith. But their names are Price and Okamoto, not Mikimoto. And my attorneys are Roy Chang and Harvey Demetrakopoulus, not Ching and Demetrious. Their names are all over the records on top of your desk.”
“Erlinda, please call me Dana, okay? I will be your protector. Call me any time, morning, afternoon, even nighttime. Here is my cell number.”
I would have nothing to tell him at nighttime, but I noted down his cellular number anyway.
Days later, Smith’s secretary called. I was to go to Smith’s office immediately. Smith and McCorriston had spoken, and there was extremely significant information waiting for me.
As soon as I arrived, Smith invited me into his room.
“Erlinda, you should dismiss your case against Pohl right away, or you will be sanctioned.”
“Just like I said. You should withdraw your case against Pohl immediately.”
“What happened in your conference with McCorriston, Dana?”
“Bill convinced me that you will be fighting an uphill battle and you will not sustain your case. Last Friday evening, he discussed it with his clients in the office of Warren Price.”
“The opponent convinced you and now you’re giving up? You are now calling Mr. McCorriston by his first name. You know him?”
“He’s my friend. He defended me a few years ago.”
“Defended you? What kind of case?”
“You were sued for legal malpractice? You were defended by McCorriston who is my opponent, and you never told me!”
“I’m sorry, I forgot. Erlinda, forgive me?”
“Mr. Smith, I will not ask you how many times you were sued for legal malpractice, but I don’t think our business relationship should continue. Goodbye!”
I left his room in a hurry and as I closed the door, I said loud and clear, “No, I will not dismiss my case against Pohl. And I will not pay you for your socializing with McCorriston. You can sue me if you want. Understand what I mean?”
His room was silent except for the sound of crumpled papers one after another thrown into the trash can like a ball.
Then, Smith stepped out to invite his next client, who looked very much at peace as he was escorted by him, into his room. I recalled Ben saying, “Do as the Romans do.”
But in my vocabulary, I could not ever be one of them. Smith and the rest were no Romans.
"My opponents subpoenaed you. Don't vent your anger on me. I'm not asking you to lie on my account. You will still have an excellent private practice. For me, it all seems very late."
The hearing arrived. I was on time.
Roy and Harvey were seated outside the courtroom. They came as witnesses but were attired as attorneys.
They saw me approach. We looked at each other.
"Hi," I said.
"Hi," they greeted me back as I continued to walk into the courtroom. I showed no resentment. I did not know what they would say, perhaps some truth, which would be in my favor.
O'Brien was already seated. I did not greet him, nor did he greet me. It was just the two of us in the courtroom with the clerk and the court reporter.
My case was alone on the calendar. It avoided embarrassment.
As we waited for the judge, it felt strange that my two attorneys, Roy and Harvey, were not seated beside me.
Instead, they were outside the courtroom as witnesses for my opponents and for the judge.
I objected to the testimony of my attorneys. I invoked my attorney-client privilege. I was overruled. The judge wanted to hear testimonies first, then make her rulings.
As the movant, and pursuant to procedure, I was ready to present my evidence ahead of O'Brien. He was my hostile and only witness. I asked the court that I proceed. My request was denied.
This is what appears in the recusal hearing transcript of February 25, 2004, verbatim:
THE COURT: We're going to take up Mr. Chang and Mr. Demetrakopoulos.
MS. DOMINGUEZ: Your Honor, please, I want Mr. O'Brien to testify first.
COURT: Well, --
MR. O'BRIEN: I'm not under subpoena, Your Honor.
MS. DOMINGUEZ: Yeah, he is in court.
THE COURT: Just wait. I want people to take things one at a time. I'm trying not to interrupt you. I'm trying to allow you to make your record. Don't interrupt me.
MS. DOMINGUEZ: I'm sorry.
THE COURT: Mr. Chang, Mr. Demetrakopoulus.
MR. O'BRIEN: Thank you, your Honor.
The words of the judge and the way she looked at me were terrifying. We were just beginning, and already, I realized that I was fighting an uphill, impossible fight. Roy could have been right in all his warnings, but I had to do what I had to do. After all, I was in an American Hall of Justice. I had the freedom of speech that other countries did not have.
The clerk opened the door and asked Harvey to enter while Roy waited outside the courtroom. A witness was not supposed to hear the testimony of another.
The judge allowed my request for witness exclusion. That was part of my constitutional right to due process.
Harvey walked to the witness stand. He did not look at me or at O'Brien. He remained standing. The clerk administered the oath for him to tell the truth.
Then, he took his seat and faced the judge.
It was at the height of my cross-examination when he asked Judge Marks to allow him to talk to Roy, his partner, who he claimed was now acting as his attorney and was outside the courtroom. His attorney? I thought Roy was my attorney!
Both were witnesses. They should not be talking to each other while testimony was ongoing. Harvey was manufacturing his testimony on the witness stand—and under oath. I was in shock, and my objection showed it!
The hearing transcript of Harvey’s testimony reads verbatim:
THE WITNESS: Any possibility that I can have a short moment? Because this is an issue I need to discuss with my partner acting as my attorney.
THE COURT: Sure. We’ll take a break.
MS. DOMINGUEZ: Excuse me. Just a moment, your Honor. These two people are witnesses.
THE COURT: Excuse me. We’re taking a break.
MS. DOMINGUEZ: I’m just objecting, Your Honor, that he will contact the other witness in this case.
THE COURT: I will allow him to do that. There are sensitive issues obviously about attorney-client. I’ll allow him to do it. We’ll take a break. I think we’ve been going, at least, for the court reporter and the court, certainly more than an hour.
THE BAILIFF: All rise. Court stands in recess.
I literally pictured the books of professional conduct and ethics governing attorneys thrown in front of me, mocked and ridiculed, kicked then burned—in a hall of justice—where lawyers practice their profession. And the lawyers, like Harvey, were all smiling and laughing at their own client!
O’Brien heard all that Harvey said when he testified. I knew he would testify the same way, perhaps, use the same words.
O’Brien walked to the witness stand, raised his right hand, and swore to tell the truth.
His testimony was basically a mirror image of what Harvey said: two disclosures before trial, No Problem, and so on!
He also could not recall dates and people in attendance.
Those two words decided my fate and my life: No Problem! Words that did not seem to fit in a formal Hall of Justice.
And if that really happened, nobody cared to ask me, the defendant, what I thought. Did I want the wife of a partner of Pohl, my ultimate legal opponent in the case, to be my judge?
The transcript of that hearing on February 25, 2004, shows the following questions and answers, verbatim.
Q. (BY MS. DOMINGUEZ) Mr. O’Brien, you have represented the plaintiffs in this case, the Barnedos; true?
Q. Okay. And, of course, you are still their attorney?
Q. And you were here all the while listening to the testimony of the previous witness, Harvey Demetrakopoulos, and you heard all that he said; true?
There were no difficulties understanding O’Brien. He talked like a purebred American born in the United States, and his testimony was loud and clear. Many of his answers were one word.
Then, O’Brien became emphatic. He showed anger, appeared to lose his composure, and agreed that remittals, disclosures and disqualifications of judges are exceedingly important.
The manner of his emotional answers, not just one-word responses, encouraged me to pursue my cross-examination.
Q. (BY MS. DOMINGUEZ) You know that that’s important, don’t you?
A. I consider it exceedingly important.
Q. Okay. Since you consider that disclosure and recusal, all of those exceedingly important, as an attorney, did you remind the Honorable Judge Marks, Judge, let’s put this in writing, it’s very important, it might decide the outcome of the case? Did you say anything like that?
A. There was no reason to.
Q. You did not in other words.
A. No, I did not.
Q. Even if you thought it was very important.
A. I did not think it was necessary.
Q. That’s your best answer?
A. That’s my only answer.
The day after, I was back in my attorneys’ office.
“How can I pay my creditors? My office space? My litigation expenses? Even basic necessities? I have only two bucks in my wallet, and my car is running out of gas. I want you to know that I will refuse any hand-out from you and your staff,” I said.
“Erlinda, it’s a friendly reminder to file for bankruptcy immediately, but we don’t handle that kind of case,” said Roy with a tone of sadness.
Their secretaries watched me as I walked toward the elevator to get to my office. I was imagining what they were thinking.
There goes a beggar! She is making the competition in this small Hawaii legal community happy! Her clients’ trust account has been garnished! She cannot continue with her practice!
Shortly thereafter, a document had to be delivered to Judge Hifo’s staff. I did it myself. The court was near my office.
The chambers room was open. It was in clear view of whoever was in the staff’s room, which was adjacent and steps away.
Judge Sabrina McKenna was seated in Judge Hifo’s chambers, facing the door. She looked at me as I walked in. She knew me from my other cases in her court.
Judge Victoria Marks was seated beside her and was looking at Judge Hifo to her left. She appeared to be explaining something serious and did not seem to notice my presence. Judge Hifo could not be seen, but I knew that she was at the other end of the long table, presiding.
The clerks saw me glance at the open door of the judge’s chambers. Their surprised reaction was obvious.
All three judges were there: Hifo, who had just made her disclosures of conflict and was the presiding judge in my case against Pohl for indemnification; McKennna, who recused herself and stepped aside because of her friendship with the Pohl firm; and Marks, who presided in the malpractice case against me and whose husband was working in Pohl’s office. And all were female judges. Coincidentally, of course!
A few minutes later after I filed my court documents, I was back in Judge Hifo’s office. The chambers was completely closed. One clerk turned her head to the chambers door, making sure nothing could be seen. I greeted the staff and they returned my greeting. “Have a nice day, Ms. Dominguez.”
Roy was right. Judges are human, they cannot be reclusive. They talk, they just walk to the other’s room. And as Harvey said, their court calendars were sometimes empty, especially when hearings were postponed or cancelled, with more free time to socialize.
I wondered who and what they were talking about. And why it would be none of my business when a minor appearance of impropriety by attorneys could subject them to disciplinary action!
Were we held to a much higher standard than judges? It did not make sense. It was becoming my impossible profession.
O’Brien, Barnedos’ counsel in the malpractice case, had become a main witness for Pohl. I decided to discover what he had to say. Judge Yim would preside in the oral deposition.
The day of O’Brien’s deposition arrived. O’Brien came with his lawyer, Dennis Potts, a Honolulu attorney who had a small office of what appeared to be general practice.
His testimony provided me with information I thought could never happen. O’Brien described a conference he had with Warren Price and Sharon Himeno days before he sued me for malpractice. Something I was never told.
He testified that in that conference, I was called crazy, confrontational, and had a tendency to blame other people—and it happened in the Pohl office.
If that was true, that means, when I had that conference with Sharon, O’Brien and Fritz in Pohl’s office before my office was sued, Pohl and my opponents had been talking about me behind my back. And here I was—with Roy and Harvey reporting everything they had to say to Pohl. Tragic!
What chance did I ever have in the malpractice case where Judge Marks presided, while her husband worked with Warren and Sharon in Pohl’s office, a place where I was ridiculed and called names moments before I was sued?
If O’Brien was truthful, I had been sold to the enemy. That was not the way I conducted my relationships ever, where the glitter of money seems to replace traditional values in life.
I decided to clear up the truth. Warren Price hardly set foot in my office. I wanted to know his basis for such remarks, especially since I was their partner in my cases years before.
Portion of the transcript of the oral deposition of Warren Price on January 17, 2006, reads, verbatim:
Q. (Ms. Dominguez) …You did say allegedly that I am crazy. Erlinda is crazy.
A. I have no recollection of saying that.
Q. Okay. And according to O’Brien, that you said that I am very confrontational.
A. I have no recollection of saying that.
Q. And that according to Mr. O’Brien, that I, Erlinda Dominguez, tend to lay the blame on people, something like that.
A. I have no recollection of saying that.
Q. Are you capable of saying those things?
A. You ask me to speculate.
Q. Well, you know yourself, so—
A. Am I capable of saying what things about what people? I mean, you’re asking me to speculate about could I say something about someone generally?
Q. Well, about me, Mr. Price. Would you be—knowing what I am, okay? Do you think you would be capable of saying that Erlinda Dominguez is crazy to somebody?
A. Be capable of saying that?
A. I—I can’t answer that question.
Q. I mean, not physically, not physically. But you think you—
A. You’re asking me to guess. You’re asking me for at some point in time what my state of mind might have articulated something in my state of mind. I’m not going to guess.
I’ve answered your questions. I have no recollection of telling Mr. O’Brien any of those things that you just asked me about.
Q. Do you think I’m crazy?
A. You want me to answer that question? That’s an improper question.
I pursued my questioning on the point, and McCorriston instructed Warren not to answer. I realized how really angry I was at O’Brien’s description of me and I was afraid it showed.
The testimony was not bad. I felt some relief with the I don’t remembers of Warren.
Any admission that I was crazy would have been devastating to me and even to Pohl—for having had me for an insane partner.