"Supporting the Law Enforcement Agencies of our State, and helping to educate and empower the public for a safer community."

    Every once in awhile you meet a person who is truly passionate about what they do. These people “wear their heart on a sleeve,” are vocal about their agenda, and are seemingly oblivious to political and public opinion. Something inside burns-- a cause, a pursuit, a mission, and that internal fire gives them energy to go into the world arena and keep at it. We have many labels for folks like this. Idealist. Crusader. Radical. Passionate young man. Hawaii attorney Myles S. Breiner is a youthful looking 50-years-old. But all the previous labels fit, including “passionate young man.”
Breiner at desk
Myles Breiner pauses during a hectic day in his Honolulu law office. His years of experience has been earned on both sides of the judicial aisle.

    Breiner, has been practicing law for nearly two decades, yet one still senses his passion and sense of mission when you sit down to talk story in his downtown Honolulu office. He starts to answer questions in a rhetorical sense, and by mid-sentence, you know he‘s speaking from the heart. Breiner views his practice of law more as a “calling,” than profession and says an oft-quoted line from the Tom Hanks movie, “Philadelphia,” best explains the passion for what he does.

    In the 1993 picture, actor Tom Hanks plays AIDS stricken attorney Andrew Beckett. When asked why he pursued a career in litigation, Beckett replied, “It's that every now and again - not often, but occasionally - you get to be a part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when that happens.”      

    As an attorney, Breiner has worked both sides of the aisle. He served as a deputy under former City and County of Honolulu Prosecutor Charles Marsland, and since 1989, served as a defense attorney. Experience on both sides of the judicial aisle has given Briener a unique appreciation and understanding of our system. But justice has always been paramount for Breiner.

    “As a Deputy Prosecutor, I felt a sense of satisfaction when we got the right person, and the right sentence,” said Breiner. “And as a defense lawyer, I feel an even greater satisfaction when someone gets a fair trial, and is either acquitted or receives an appropriate sentence; not something draconian and inappropriate, but seeing justice done. It’s truly rewarding when that happens.”

    Breiner received his undergraduate and graduate education at the University of Michigan, did post-graduate research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Taiwan National University, and attended law school at the University of San Francisco. While attending law school in San Francisco, Breiner clerked for the San Francisco City Attorney, Office of the Public Defender, Alameda County District Attorney, California Attorney General, and the Marin County Superior Court. Breiner says his term as a Honolulu Deputy Prosecutor under Charles Marsland was a rewarding and enlightening experience. “A great deal of good can come from the prosecution, assuring the public that criminals regardless of their wealth, education or background, receive fair and equal treatment, and that no one is above the law.” Nevertheless, Breiner also recognizes that “with the tremendous amount of authority given the prosecution, there is also the potential for abuse.”

    While most of his experiences with the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office were positive, he says working as a deputy opened his eyes to potential abuses within the system. The prosecution is a powerful institution, Breiner says, and that authority increases the potential for abuse. Because of the adversarial nature of the criminal justice system, police, prosecutors, and others working in law enforcement, increasingly vilify defendants and their defense attorneys, and occasionally step over the line in their pursuit of justice.

    “They often fail to look at the larger picture,” said Breiner. “In many cases it’s not just the victims that are victimized, but also, defendants and their families. An indictment or complaint against a defendant is only an allegation, but that allegation is very powerful. People believe, rightly or wrongly, if you are charged, then you must be guilty of something. That’s a great deal of power to take into a courtroom”

    Breiner says the role of defense is very challenging under these circumstances. “The defense attorney has a tremendous responsibility and goes into the courtroom with a difficult task. As a sword and shield, the defense attorney fights for the defendant’s right to a fair trial, free of prosecutorial abuse, jury misconduct, or judicial error. “Juries are told the defendant is “innocent until proven guilty.” Why are they told that? Because people assume anyone arrested must be guilty of something. Secondly, juries are told the burden of proof rests upon the prosecution, that people aren’t required to testify in their own defense. Why? Because people assume the Prosecutor never gets it wrong and that if someone is innocent, they’ll definitely testify. That is not what the law says, and at times it is very difficult to convince a jury that the defendant has a right to remain silent because they are presumed innocent.”

    Breiner says because of the responsibility placed in his hands, being a defense attorney can be stressful and exhausting, but also very rewarding precisely because of the challenges and the stakes involved. More importantly, according to Breiner is, “Every once in awhile you help the right person, get the right result. Just because you do that, doesn’t mean a guilty person is going free. Some people deserve to be acquitted, or found guilty of a lesser offense.”

Breiner in courtroom
Breiner see's his position as not just defending his client, but also as a "watch dog" to insure  balance and fairness in the judicial system.
Breiner admits our judicial system is far from perfect but one that is envied by many who live in nations not accorded our citizen’s rights.

    “American citizenship is a much sought after prize, if for no other reason, than the legal rights and protections accorded its citizens,” said Breiner. “We have a legal system where defendants can confront their accusers and present witnesses on their behalf. Few nations have the same standard. In many countries, the arresting authorities literally play the role of prosecutor, judge and jury.

    Breiner stresses the need for a vigorous defense as essential to a fair judicial system. The defense, he says, is the “watch dog,” a part of the check and balance system, necessary to insure that our rights are respected and that the police and prosecution are not all-powerful.

    “The system doesn’t work without vigorous defense attorneys,” Breiner says. “The Prosecutors and police may complain. Politicians may lament, but we keep the system honest. People often say negative things about the defense until they need a defense attorney. Until you’re actually accused of a crime, it’s easy to blame defense attorneys and the criminal justice system for the problem. Critics often say we need to restrict the rights of criminal defendants, and increase penalties, while reducing our constitutional right to challenge the evidence.”

    That stance is ironic, says Breiner. “When someone in a position of authority does get charged, the first thing they do is run to a defense attorney, hire them, and demand their rights be protected.”

    When asked the inevitable, “How can you defend such a person” question, Breiner says that a defense attorney’s job is not simply to “defend”, but to insure his client’s right have been protected, and that the prosecution has not abused their authority in the pursuit of justice.”

    Breiner mentions “The Innocence Project” (http://www.innocenceproject.org/), a non-profit legal clinic and criminal justice resource center that works to free the wrongly imprisoned through post-conviction DNA testing. According to their website, the Innocence Project has exonerated 159 people to date. Breiner champions this cause and says it personifies why he thousands of his contemporaries do what they do.

    “If anything, the Innocence Project is a resounding endorsement of why we need criminal defense attorneys and why we need to support the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the 4th Amendment right to challenge the procedure of evidence,” said Breiner.

    It goes back to the movie quote, and re-watching the courtroom scene in Philadelphia, you can easily picture Breiner on the stand, verbalizing the same passion.

    “It's that every now and again - not often, but occasionally - you get to be a part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when that happens.”