July 2006 #14. Perspectives from Territorial Lawyers.

Author:by Ed Kemper

Hawaii Bar Journal


July 2006 #14.

Perspectives from Territorial Lawyers

Hawaii State Bar JournalJuly 2006Perspectives from Territorial Lawyersby Ed KemperEd. note: Hawaii Bar Journal editor Edward Kemper interviewed lawyers who were licensed in Hawaii before statehood (pre-1959) to gain their thoughts regarding the practice before the tremendous growth of the state and the bar after statehood. These interviews took place on February 22 and March 22, 2006.


Ed Kemper: If you were reared in Hawaii, how difficult was it to leave the islands, and how often did you come back while in law school?

Moon Chan: I am from Oregon. I do not remember when I came here, but I think it was in 1945.

Ed Kemper: Right after the war?

Moon Chan: During the war.

Ed Kemper: Where did you go to law school?

Moon Chan: University of Oregon.

Ed Kemper: And what made you come here?

Moon Chan: My wife is a local girl from Hawaii.

Ed Kemper: So you met her in law school?

Moon Chan: No, I met her here.

Ed Kemper: So Judge King, what about your situation?

Judge Sam King: I went to Yale undergraduate. That was a big enough move. You did not call home in those days. It cost $30.00 for the first minute. That was in 1933. Then I went to Yale Law School from 1937 to 1940. You did not have that much communication with fellow Hawaiians. But luckily my father went to Washington as a delegate to Congress, so on weekends I would go down there and come back - hour and a half round trip. It was tough going to law school from Hawaii. Most of the firms here would hire lawyers from the mainland. No one financed me going to law school - my father did, I guess - although I got a scholarship for undergrad.

Ed Kemper: During law school, did you come back to Hawaii?

Judge Sam King: Once.

Ed Kemper: By train and then by ship?

Judge Sam King: It took 5 nights and 4 days to take a boat to cross from the west coast to Hawaii. The train across the country took 3 days. If you drove across the county in an automobile, it took the same length of time. I went across the country in 6 days. Not all of the students from Hawaii could come back to Hawaii. It was expensive. When I took the bar exam in 1940, there were 10 of us.

Ed Kemper: Now, how many attorneys were practicing at the time?

Judge Sam King: One hundred or something.

Ed Kemper: Let me talk to Peter about you going to law school and how you transported yourself and how often you came back?

Peter Howell: First of all, I was born and raised in Hawaii. I attended Punahou School from third grade on and graduated in 1945. I received an appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy from our Congressional Delegate to the United States Congress, Joseph R. Farrington. However, in spite of the fact that I passed the physical examination here in Hawaii, when I arrived at the Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, I flunked the eye test because I was slightly nearsighted. Needless to say, I was greatly disappointed, so I wired the bad news to my father, Hugh Howell, Jr., who was an officer of Hawaiian Trust Company. He discussed my situation with some of his senior executives who were also Yale alumni, and they arranged a loan scholarship for me, which of course, I was happy to accept. After attending my freshman year at Yale, I returned to the Islands, but instead of returning to Yale the following fall, I decided to enlist in the United States Army in August 1946 along with my Punahou and Yale classmate, Dudley Pratt, Jr. After we finished our basic training at Wahiawa, we were assigned to posts at Fort Shafter, he to Headquarters Company, and I to the 264th Army band, where I ended up as drum major when we marched; trombonist in concert band; and bandleader, pianist and arranger in the 14-piece dance band within the military band.

At the end of my enlistment, I returned to Yale in 1948 and graduated in 1950 with a bachelor's degree in history, economics and political science, plus a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force reserve. I then attended Cornell Law School from 1950 to 1953; and after graduating, I returned to Hawaii.

Ed Kemper: Was this a train or boat transportation?

Peter Howell: I traveled first by small plane to Los Angeles and then by the old Lurline passenger ship from L. A. to Honolulu. Perhaps I should explain what I mean by "small plane." When I graduated from Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York, I was flat broke and somehow had to find a way back across the Continent and then to Hawaii. Since I had a private pilot's license, I decided to write the Piper Aircraft factory in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, to see if they might have a plane I could ferry across the country to a dealer on the West Coast. Fortunately, they did, so after taking a bus to Lock Haven, I picked up a brand new factory built Piper Super Cub to ferry to their dealer in the Los Angeles area. I also picked up a hitch-hiker who happened to be a graduate of Rutgers University with a master's degree in mathematics, but was also a minister in a small Baptist sect called the "Pillar of Fire" - apparently after the Biblical story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt by a cloud by day and pillar of fire at night. So we hopped across the country stopping at his little churches along the way, where they put us up each night and also fed us. So that took care of my living expenses along the way, which were also reimbursed by the Piper dealer in Los Angeles. We had many interesting conversations about religion and philosophy on the trip.

Ed Kemper: How often did you have to stop in the Piper Cub?

Peter Howell: I had to refuel after about every three hours of flight time. It was a two-seater light plane powered by a 125-horsepower Lycoming engine. Its design was more advanced than the early Piper Cub trainers of the middle and late 1930s, and it cruised at about 95 miles an hour.

Ed Kemper: How many times did you have to land?

Peter Howell: About twice a day. At its normal cruising speed, I could cover about 250 miles on a full tank (with a reserve of 30 to 45 minutes). Since we were flying westward, we encountered headwinds of between 15 to 25 miles an hour most of the way, which cut down our ground speed. I covered an average of 500 miles a day. The whole trip was about 2500 miles and took five days to cover the full distance. On the first day of our trip, because of overcast weather in Lock Haven, we had to wait until the afternoon for some of the cloud cover to lift enough so we could take off and begin our way westward. But even then, it was so cloudy I had to follow the Susequehanna River, which snaked back and forth for a good many miles, until we found a hole in the clouds that enabled me to begin heading west. Since I had nothing but a compass and a map (the plane had no radio or modern day navigational equipment), I wasn't sure where we were when we broke out from the cloud cover over eastern Pennsylvania. But then I spotted an airport below, so I circled and landed after which I learned of our correct location. We weren't too far off course, so we took off and headed west to our first overnight stop at Pittsburgh. After we landed in Pittsburgh, my passenger (who was also a pilot and helped with the navigation) telephoned his church people who drove out to the airport, picked us up, drove us to their church, fed us and then put us up for the night. The next day we continued on our journey, stopping at similar places along the way where his church people assisted us in the same way. It was a lesson in Christian love and hospitality, to say the least.


Ed Kemper: When you took the bar, how many people were with you at the time?

Moon Chan: I remember I took the bar, but later I was one of the bar examiners. I always remember that there were 40 people taking the bar exam.

Judge Sam King: I took the exam in 1940. Ten people took the bar exam - 6 people passed.

Peter Howell: Twenty people took the bar and about 12 - 15 passed. I am just guessing somewhat. I do not recall any women. There were just a handful of women that were members of the bar.

Ed Kemper: How many lawyers were practicing in Hawaii at the time when you started?

Judge Sam King: About 200.

Peter Howell: About 400.


Ed Kemper: Doubled in a decade or so. How did your fellow practioners treat you?

Judge Sam King: Bill Ing was a clerk in the First Circuit, and he used to keep copies of new pleadings, especially if they were different. So the young lawyers would go over there and say, "Bill, you got such and such", and he would pull one out and hand it to you. He was the form book. The lawyers themselves would help out. If you had an issue involving ancient Hawaiian land titles, you called Howard Moore, and if you had an estate matter, you called Charles Gregory. They all helped out and told you what to do.

Ed Kemper: At that time, had the Hawaii courts adopted rules modeled after the Federal Rules?

Judge Sam King: The Hawaii courts had not changed the rules yet. They changed them in 1953.

Peter Howell: I think the Federal Rules came in about the time I was admitted to the Bar which was about 1953 -1954.

Judge Sam King: And we had writs of error. I had what is called a minute case. I went to file a writ of error and a bond. You had to file the bond first and then file the writ of error. Miss Cronin - who was the red-headed clerk of the Supreme Court, a very nice gal, very helpful, who liked to chat - so I handed her the bond, and I handed her the writ. She then put...

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