The Honolulu businessman seeking to impeach embattled city prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro wants a federal court to weigh in on the electronic signature issue that’s kept him from moving the effort forward.

Tracy Yoshimura filed a complaint in federal court last week against the Honolulu city clerk’s office, corporation counsel and the City and County of Honolulu.

“It’s another course of action to try to get this signature issue cleared up,” Yoshimura said. “E-signatures are permitted by both federal and state law, but the city has never taken a formal position on the issue.”

Attorney Keith Kiuchi, left, and client Tracy Yoshimura say if the city isn’t going to accept electronic signatures, it needs to have rules saying it won’t accept them. Brittany Lyte

The businessman had initially filed a petition in December 2018 to oust Kaneshiro, who has been on paid leave since March 2018 after receiving a target letter in a large-scale federal corruption investigation. But he has been engaged in a lengthy legal battle with the city over whether the city clerk’s office can accept electronic signatures.

The city declined to comment.

State law says that state and county agencies don’t have to accept them. The city does not have a written policy about signature requirements regarding impeachment petitions.

Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro announces a 3rd possible trial for Christopher Deedy.
Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro has been on paid leave since March 2018 after receiving a target letter in a federal corruption probe. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The city declined to accept Yoshimura’s electronic signatures, saying it didn’t need to have formal rules on the matter to not accept them. Yoshimura and his attorney, Keith Kiuchi, argued it couldn’t do that.

It’s like charging someone for speeding when there was no sign indicating a speed limit, Yoshimura said.

But a state judge, Jeffrey Crabtree, sided with the city and shut down Yoshimura’s petition.

Yoshimura renewed his effort in November 2019, filing a new petition with more than 557 handwritten and electronic signatures from residents calling for Kaneshiro’s removal. That’s still ongoing, with a hearing scheduled for Jan. 24.

He also wrote letters to the state Attorney General’s Office to get it to weigh in on the issue with no luck.

Now, Yoshimura wants the federal court to declare that the city’s refusal to accept electronic signatures is a violation of the provisions of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, or ESIGN Act, which is a federal law that says records pertaining to interstate or foreign commerce should not be denied legal effect or validity simply because they are in electronic form.

Yoshimura, who was once charged with operating game machines as illegal gambling devices, accuses Kaneshiro of wrongful prosecution and for allowing corruption to happen within the prosecutor’s office.

“He’s been the gatekeeper for Hawaii’s justice system,” he said of Kaneshiro. “With everything going on here, Hawaii needs a new start in the prosecutor’s office.”

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