Hawai‘i litigation attorney Doug Chin served as the state’s attorney general from 2015 to 2018, during which time he filed the case Hawaii v. Trump, a challenge to the president’s executive orders banning travel from certain Muslim-majority countries. He previously served as lieutenant governor and as managing director for the City & County of Honolulu under Mayor Peter Carlisle. Before speaking at a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Talk Story” event, titled “Does Hawai‘i Welcome Immigrants?” and held at Artistry Honolulu, he talked in the green room about suing Trump, eating Thai food, and what makes Hawai‘i lawyers different from other lawyers.
What is the biggest misconception people have about the role of an attorney general?
A lot of times people think the attorney general is just the lawyer for the governor. And actually the A.G. is the lawyer for the entire state. In the courtroom, I was speaking for the people of the state.
What was your most difficult decision as attorney general?
When we took on the president in the Muslim ban lawsuit, there was a point in time when the U.S. government kept sanitizing the Muslim ban further. And so there was a lot of pressure to give up on the fight… We didn’t.
What’s the hardest thing about fighting the federal government in court?
As much as people think the state has a lot of resources, the federal government is even bigger. And a lot of what happens in courts is very politicized, because there are people in high positions who are politically focused.
How are Hawai‘i lawyers are different from other lawyers?
There is a great understanding among Hawai‘i lawyers that we’re an island and we’re all two degrees removed from each other. In a lot of other places, it’s a lot easier to stab someone in the back. But here you’ll see them at Costco or your children’s soccer games.
What the funniest thing about being a lieutenant governor?
When I had that job, it did feel like I got a lot of ribbing… What I really saw, when I got past all the ceremony, was that it was a great opportunity to see a lot of people.
What person, living or dead, would you most want to meet and have a drink with?
I’ve never gotten a chance to meet President Obama.
If we turned on the TV at your house, what channel would most likely be on?
At which restaurant do you most often eat?
Bangkok Chef, which started off as a hole in the wall, and always is my favorite.
What book about Hawai‘i do you most often recommend to others?
Probably Broken Trust. That’s just a great story about fighting corruption, and how the attorney general’s office back then played a big role.