On February 16, 2021, United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, Kenji M. Price, announced his resignation from his post as a Chief Federal Law Enforcement Officer of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii. It was reported that the resignation letter of U.S. Attorney Price has been delivered on February 12, 2021, and shall be made official on February 21, 2021. Meantime, Judith A. Phillips will serve as the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii under the Vacancies Reform Act. Attorney Phillips will stay in the role for the next 300 days or until President Biden’s Administration appoints a new Chief Federal Prosecutor for the District.
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Words from U.S. Attorney Kenji Price
Expressing his deep gratitude, U.S. Attorney Price said that serving as the United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii is a privilege that he will forever cherish. He has further acclaimed the Office for having dedicated staff – from the career attorneys, professional personnel, and contractors in the Office – who have been nothing but committed to doing the fantastic work day in and day out. Despite the significant change in the Office in response to the most prolonged federal government shutdown, the employees of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii have continuously performed their duties under the leadership of the U.S. Attorney Kenji Price to efficiently and adequately enforce the law and defend the interest of the United States in civil litigations. Furthermore, U.S. Attorney Price claimed that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office’s staff has consistently put in the effort to serve and has continuously conducted their affairs with the courage, character, and professionalism that exemplifies the finest traditions of the U.S. Department of Justice. For this, U.S. Attorney Kenji Price is grateful. He added that he is looking forward to hearing about all of the more remarkable achievements that the Office is yet to achieve in the months and years to come as they carry on and persist with working in perfect collaboration with the Office’s local and state partners, as well as with the broader federal community to bring justice and serve the people ultimately.
On February 16th, 2021, Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Kenji M. Price said:
“Last Friday, I sent a letter to the President offering my resignation, effective February 21, 2021. Serving as U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii—the chief federal law enforcement officer in the District—is a privilege that I will forever cherish. The career attorneys, professional staff, and contractors in my Office do tremendous workday-in and day-out, enforcing the law and defending the United States’ interests in civil litigation. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they conducted (and continue to conduct) their affairs with the courage, character, and professionalism that exemplifies the finest traditions of the U.S. Department of Justice. I truly stand on the shoulders of giants and look forward to hearing about the fantastic work that my Office will continue to do in the months and years to come, working hand in glove with our state and local partners and the broader federal law enforcement community.”
Educational Background and State Bar Admission
Kenji M. Price completed his undergraduate studies at the Gonzaga University and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 2002. He subsequently earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2010, where he was also Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. U.S. Attorney Price has been registered and admitted with the Office of Court Admission for the State of New York since 2011.
Prior to entering law school, U.S. Attorney Price first served in the United States Army for four years, where he was initially an Infantry Officer from 2002 to 2003. In March of 2003, he became the Rifle Platoon Leader of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After a year, U.S. Attorney Price became a Ranger Platoon Leader of the 75th Ranger Regiment, leading for another year until he was appointed as the Company Executive in March of 2005, serving in the position for about 11 months. In 2006, he joined the Military Professional Resources Inc L-3 Company as a Senior Recruiter.
While attending law school, U.S. Attorney Kenji Price joined the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati as a Summer Associate – working in the firm for about four months, from May to August of 2008. The next summer, he joined the Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and interned in the law firm for approximately four months. Following his graduation from law school, he worked as a Law Clerk under the Honorable Kent A. Jordan of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for a year, and then under the Honorable Robert B. Kugler of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. After his clerkship years, U.S. Attorney Price subsequently joined the Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from September of 2012 to 2015. For a little over three years, U.S. Attorney Price handled a wide variety of cases involving federal offenses, emphasizing the prosecution of numerous cases involving domestic and international narcotics trafficking.
United States Attorney Price later joined a private practice. It became Special Counsel at the Carlsmith Ball LLP, serving in the position for almost two years before being appointed as Partner of the firm in July of 2017. He remained in the capacity for three months before becoming a Director at the Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing in October of 2017. Throughout the four months of his service at the Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, U.S. Attorney Price focused on white-collar criminal defense, along with commercial litigation.
Price’s Work as U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii
Kenji M. Price first joined the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii in January of 2018. He was officially appointed to being the United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii by then President Donald Trump. In his service as Chief Federal Law Enforcement Officer, U.S. Attorney Price was responsible for serving approximately 1.4 million residents of the State of Hawaii. On top of that, he was in charge of supervising and leading the Office’s 25 talented Assistant U.S. Attorneys, as well as its 40 support personnel. Among his most significant cases as the United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, was the case of public corruption against several society members, such as the five-year investigation of the alleged masterminds of one of the largest public corruption scandals in Hawaii – the Kealohas. Two other public corruption cases were against the organized crime boss Michael Miskem who has been linked to several instances of kidnapping, murder, drug trafficking, and money laundering, and against the dismissed former Kauai County Councilman Arthur Brun. On top of handling three of the largest public corruption cases in the State of Hawaii, the Office of the United States Attorney for the District is reported to be relentlessly pushing to combating drug and sex trafficking cases, with a focus on preventive measures against the rise of methamphetamine abuse. In line with the Office’s goals, U.S. Attorney Price shared that being able to give a voice to those victimized by crime is undeniably one of the most gratifying parts of being a law enforcement officer, particularly of being the United States Attorney. In one of his statements Atty Price said:
“One of the most gratifying parts of being a United States attorney or being in law enforcement more broadly is to be able to give a voice to those who have been victimized by crime,”
During the last month of Kenji Price’s service as the Top Federal Prosecutor, the District of Hawaii made it to the national headlines being one of the first to deliver federal charges in connection to the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol – bringing into trial the Hawaii Proud Boys leader Nick Ochs.
Resignation of U.S. Attorney Price
Former United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, Kenji M. Price, was asked to step down following the shift in the United States Office when President-elect Joe Biden won the presidential election. U.S. Attorney Price put a lot of thought before stepping down from the role of the state’s attorney, in contrast to the other Trump-appointed U.S. Attorneys, who tendered their resignation immediately.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, or at least that was my perspective upon leaving office, there’s always challenges, always wrongdoing to look into,” Price says.
This prompted questions whether U.S. Attorney Price was making an effort to keep the position; however, Kenji Price argued that he believed there was quite a lot of work to be done prior to him leaving the Office, as there were challenges that arose and several miscalculations that needed to be reflected upon. In addition, U.S. Attorney Price asserts that serving former President Donald Trump has been a pleasure and added that he refuses to delve into the politics surrounding his departure from the Office. Despite this, many have suggested that Kenji M. Price has a bright future regardless of whether it may be in the political or legal field.
The Biden Administration is yet to appoint a new United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii. In the meantime, Judith A. Phillips will serve as the Acting U.S. Attorney. Kenji Price expressed his commendation for the employees of the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, claiming that the institution is a strong one, filled with fantastic people who he asserts will be persistent in pursuing justice and in accomplishing great things for Hawaii.
Updated: March 9, 2021