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Judge Blocks Auction Of Native Hawaiian Heiress' Things

Ryan Finnerty / HPR

HONOLULU — An auction of a 94-year-old Native Hawaiian heiress' belongings can't go forward until a conservator is named to handle her finances, a judge ruled Monday.

Abigail Kawananakoa's foundation, which has been working to ensure her fortune goes to benefiting Native Hawaiian causes, asked a judge to stop the auction until at least a conservator is named. The auction  was scheduled to close next week, while a hearing on her conservator isn't scheduled until July 21. On Monday, the the auction website said it is now scheduled to end on Aug. 2.

Kawananakoa's wife and others can't proceed with the auction or sell any of her belongings until there's a ruling on the foundation's petition and a permanent conservator is named, Judge R. Mark Browning ruled.

Her $215-million fortune has been tied up in a legal battle since 2017, when her longtime lawyer, Jim Wright, argued a stroke left her impaired. Kawananakoa said she's fine and fired Wright. She then married her partner of 20 years, Veronica Gail Worth, who later took her last name.

A judge ruled in March that she needs a conservator because she's unable to manage her property and business affairs. Another judge ruled month last month her conservatorship should be unlimited and set a hearing for July 21 to determine who that will be.

Some consider Kawananakoa a princess because she's related to the family that ruled the islands before the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893.

She inherited her wealth as the great-granddaughter of James Campbell, an Irish businessman who made his fortune as a sugar plantation owner and one of Hawaii's largest landowners.

Attorneys for the Kawananakoas and for the foundation didn't immediately comment on Monday's ruling.

Foundation directors said in their petition they are concerned that some of the auction items appear culturally significant.

Kawananakoa's attorney, Bruce Voss, said last week that the auction items are from a cottage she no longer visits and that she needs the proceeds from the sale to pay for personal expenses.

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