LINCOLN S. T. ASHIDA is a Director in the firm’s Hilo office and practices in the area of commercial, employment, and public-sector litigation. Born in Hilo, Mr. Ashida is the longest serving Corporation Counsel in the history of the County of Hawaiʻi, having served in this position from December 2000 to April 2014. As the County’s former top civil attorney, his clients included the Mayor, Hawaiʻi County Council, and various other County of Hawaiʻi departments and boards and commissions. Mr. Ashida is also a former deputy prosecuting attorney for the County of Hawaiʻi, who successfully prosecuted many high-profile cases and jury trials that received national attention. Mr. Ashida received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan, and his J.D. degree from Creighton University School of Law. Mr. Ashida was the 2009 statewide recipient of the Hawaiʻi State Bar Association’s C. Frederick Schutte award for outstanding contribution to the legal profession in the State of Hawaiʻi. In 2010, Mr. Ashida was the statewide recipient of the Hawaiʻi State Bar Association Government Lawyer’s Section Pro Bono Service Award for outstanding contribution to the community in providing pro bono service and leadership.
KATHARINE M. NOHR represents employers in workers’ compensation cases and represents insurance companies and their insureds in her full service insurance defense litigation practice. She is currently the principal of The Law offices of Katharine M. Nohr, LLC and previously was a partner of insurance defense firm, Miyagi, Nohr & Myhre. She served as a per diem Judge in Honolulu District Court, and is a trained mediator, having served as an appellate mediator for the Hawai‘i Intermediate Court of Appeals. She has served as a CAAP arbitrator for more than 20 years. Ms. Nohr is a former president of Honolulu Association of Insurance Professionals and former Hawai‘i State Council Director and Regional Vice President for International Association of Insurance Professionals. She was awarded International Insurance Professional of the Year in 2012. Ms. Nohr is often called on to serve as a keynote speaker, presenter, and trainer on various insurance and risk management topics on the U.S. Mainland and internationally. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Washington and her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Utah.
NEWTON J. CHU is a Director of the firm and manages its Hilo office. Mr. Chu practices in the areas of administrative licensing (including liquor), labor and employment, immigration, and general corporate law matters. Mr. Chu received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Hawaiʻi, Manoa and his J.D. degree from Antioch School of Law. Mr. Chu advises resorts, retailers, restaurants, non-profit corporations, private schools and scientific institutions, on all islands throughout the state of Hawaiʻi. In addition, he is actively involved in the community. He is the Past-Chair of the Hawaiʻi Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and a founding member of the Alliance of Alcohol Industry Attorneys & Consultants. Locally, he serves on the boards of directors of the Hilo High School Foundation, Chinese Civic Association, Hawaiʻi Island Chamber of Commerce (Past President 2000-01), the Aloha Council of the Boy Scouts of America (National Outstanding Eagle Scout Award 2017), and the Rotary Club of Hilo (Past President 2002-03).
VAUGHN G. T. COOK is a Director in the firm’s Hilo office. A licensed CPA (not in public practice) as well as an attorney, Mr. Cook’s practice includes tax law, business immigration, general business/commercial law, and administrative licensing law statewide. Mr. Cook’s areas of concentration are business taxation and general business transactional planning for both for-profit and non-profit entities. Mr. Cook received his B.S.C. degree from Santa Clara Univ. where he majored in Accounting. He received his law degree from the Univ. of Utah College of Law and his LL.M. (Taxation) from the Univ. of Washington School of Law. Before joining our firm, Mr. Cook was a tax manager with Deloitte & Touche. Mr. Cook is currently the Statewide Chair of the Hawaii Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (2021-2022) and a member of the board of directors of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce (2021-2022). Previously, he served as President of the Hawaiʻi County Bar Association in 2009, President of the Hawaiʻi Island Chamber of Commerce from 2012-2013, President of the Hawaiʻi Shima Fukuoka Kenjinkai from 2010-2013, Vice Chair of Hawaiʻi Tax Review Commission (2015-2018), and has been recognized for outstanding volunteer service.
JOSEPH A. ERNST is a Director of the firm and a member of the labor and employment department. He counsels and defends employers in all aspects of labor and employment law, including wrongful discharge, discrimination, harassment, whistleblower, and retaliation claims. Mr. Ernst also counsels employers with regard to wage and hour, disability, and leave issues as well as downsizing, employer successor liability, and dislocated worker notification issues. Mr. Ernst is admitted to practice law in all state and federal courts in Hawaiʻi. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree, with distinction, in Government and World Affairs from the University of Tampa. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pittsburgh Journal of Technology Law and Policy.
D. ELLIOT GONZALEZ is a Senior Associate in the Honolulu office, with experience practicing in the area of employment litigation and specializes in complex trial litigation. He is involved in all aspects of his clients’ cases, including pre-trial and trial strategy, law and motion, depositions, court appearances, and trial. Mr. Gonzalez has extensive experience litigating employment law cases, including matters regarding discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on race, gender and disability, whistleblower retaliation, wrongful termination, wage and hour, and other employment matters. He has litigated employment law cases in both an individual and class action context. Mr. Gonzalez has also represented clients in a range of general liability and casualty matters, including automobile collisions and premises liability. Mr. Gonzalez received a Bachelor of Science in Economics with a minor in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego. He received his J.D. from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 2012, where he served as a Production Editor with the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review. Mr. Gonzalez was selected as a Southern California Rising Star from 2017 to 2022.
JEFFREY S. HARRIS is a Director of the firm and represents employers in all aspects of labor and employment law. He has done so for the last 42 years. Mr. Harris received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1980 and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1977. He has been selected as one of the Best Lawyers in America. Mr. Harris serves on the Boards of Directors of the Boy Scouts of America, Aloha Chapter; the Institute for Human Services and the YMCA of Honolulu.
ROBERT S. KATZ is a Senior Member of the firm and has been practicing law in Hawaiʻi for over 40 years. He is an active trial attorney and compliance counselor whose practice is concentrated in the area of complex business and real estate transactions, employment and labor law, healthcare law, and complex business litigation. He has also served as an arbitrator in complex business transactional disputes and as the Chief Negotiator in numerous labor negotiations. Mr. Katz has practiced with the firm since 1968 and has been consistently recognized as one of Hawaiʻi’s preeminent lawyers. In 1999 he became the first lawyer from Hawaiʻi elected as a fellow of The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. Mr. Katz has also been consistently selected by The Best Lawyers in America, Chambers USA America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, and honored by Who’s Who in America. He was recently named as one of Hawaiʻi’s “A+ Lawyers” by Honolulu Magazine. Mr. Katz received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Rutgers University and his Juris Doctorate degree, cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School. Mr. Katz is active in many community projects, and currently serves as a Director of the Hawaiʻi Blood Bank Real Property Inc., a Director of the Hawaiʻi Opera Theatre and a Trustee Emeritus of The Honolulu Museum of Art. He also served several years as co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Employment Law Section on Antitrust and Labor Relations Law.
KENDRA K. KAWAI is a Director in the labor and employment law department of the firm. Ms. Kawai has extensive trial experience and regularly defends small and large employers in discrimination, harassment and disability cases at the administrative, state and federal levels. She also provides employers with guidance on wage and hour compliance issues and evaluates and updates employee handbooks. Ms. Kawai has been licensed to practice law in Hawaiʻi since 2002. She previously worked for the City and County of Honolulu in the Department of the Corporation Counsel’s Tort Litigation and Counseling & Drafting Divisions. She received a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in Philosophy from the University of California, San Diego and a J.D. from the University of Oregon School of Law. Ms. Kawai previously served as Co-Chair of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Hawaiʻi Chapter, Educational Foundation, Programs Committee for the island of Oahu.
JOHN L. KNOREK is a Director of the firm and has represented businesses and management executives in all aspects of employment and wrongful discharge law since 1981. He received his B.A. and M.A. in Public Administration from the University of Cincinnati, and his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He has the highest “A.V.” rating in Martindale-Hubbell, and ranked in “Best Lawyers in America” and “Chambers USA Client’s Guide” for employment law. John serves on the boards and chairs committees of the Society of Human Resource Management – Hawaiʻi Chapter, the Industrial Relations Research Association, Mid-Pacific Country Club, the Pacific Club, and the Hawai‘i Opera Theatre. He guest lectures at the University of Hawaiʻi William S. Richardson School of Law and Shidler College of Business.
RACHEL K. HOKE MIYASHIRO is an Associate in the Honolulu office and a member of the employment law department. She assists in all areas of employment law and employment litigation. Prior to law school, Ms. Miyashiro worked as a teacher for the State of Hawaiʻi and a paralegal for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi. During law school, Ms. Miyashiro worked as a law clerk for a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Hearings Officer and the Social Security Administration. Ms. Miyashiro is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law, where she served as a Staff Writer for the University of Hawaiʻi Law Review. Ms. Miyashiro is currently licensed to practice in Hawaiʻi state and federal courts.
JACOB T. TOKUNAGA is an Associate in the Honolulu office and a member of the labor and employment law department. He assists in all aspects of labor law and employment litigation and counseling. He completed his law degree at William S. Richardson School of Law and earned his Master of Human Resource Management from the Shidler College of Business. While in law school, Mr. Tokunaga was a member of the Robert F. Wagner Labor and Employment Law Moot Court Team and a recipient of the Jackson Lewis Labor and Employment Law Scholarship. During and after law school, Mr. Tokunaga assisted in the Re-Employment and Community Service Program (RACS) at Volunteer Legal Services Hawaiʻi. Mr. Tokunaga’s other past experience includes roles as a Human Resources Specialist and Supervisory Human Resources Specialist where he focused on areas that included policy administration, recruitment and placement, pay classification, position management, and employee compensation. Mr. Tokunaga also served with the Hawaii National Guard for fourteen years and has completed certification as a Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP).
is an associate in the firm’s Honolulu office, where she concentrates her practice on Corporate and Health Care Law. Ms. Ontai is a graduate of the University of Southern California. She received her Juris Doctor from the University of Hawaii, William S. Richardson School of Law, where she served as the Executive Editor for Publications for the University of Hawaii Law Review. While in law school, Ms. Ontai completed a dual degree program, also obtaining her Master of Business Administration from the Shidler College of Business. Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Ontai served as a law clerk to the Honorable Bert I. Ayabe of the First Circuit Court of Hawaii. She is currently licensed to practice in Hawaii state and federal courts.
JOHN M. McGUIRE served for many years as the vice-president of government affairs for the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaiʻi and was instrumental in assisting the firm in the first publication and subsequent revisions of the Manual. He authored the chapter on “Occupational Safety and Health” in the first edition and has continued to revise the chapter over the years. His master’s degree in occupational health and many years as a compliance inspector in the California OSHA program, combined with his legal background, make him uniquely qualified in this subject area. John currently runs his own business specializing in risk management and the administration of wrap-up insurance programs for large construction projects.