HONOLULU (CN) – Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has grudgingly released the names of 16 nominees for seats on the state Supreme Court and First and Second Circuits on Oahu and Maui.
In a statement about the release Saturday, Attorney General David Louie reiterated his disagreement with the court order forcing disclosure of court nominee names. Abercrombie believes that the authority to release the nominees’ names rests with the Judicial Selection Committee, according to the statement.
Historically, previous governors have released the list of nominees – their names only – in a press release. The list contains no personal identifiers, such as social security numbers, dates of birth, employment history or background check information.
Earlier this month, Oahu First Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto ordered Abercrombie to disclose the names of candidates who had vied for a spot on the state’s high court. In January, Abercrombie appointed Associate Supreme Court Justice Sabrina to fill a vacancy on the bench left by the elevation of Mark Recktenwald to chief justice. He refused to release the names of other nominees to Hawaii’s Oahu Publications, which publishes the Star-Advertiser.
The Office of Information Practices initially defended Abercrombie’s decision, which he had said would prevent politicization of the selection process. But the OIP reversed its position when the newspaper filed suit. First Circuit Jude Karl Sakamoto agreed with the newspaper that “public interest outweighs personal privacy,” thereby ordering the governor to release the names of nominees.
“Defendant has not adequately shown how disclosure of the list will frustrate proceedings of the JSC […] [or] show that such a chilling effect in actuality exists […] provided any affidavits or declarations of potential applicants testifying that the disclosure of the judicial nominee list had any effect on their decision to apply for a judicial vacancy,” Sakamoto said, according to the transcript.
The Judicial Selection Committee in Hawaii quickly amended its own rules based on the ruling. Under the new mandate, the names of judicial nominees must be publicly released at the same time they are sent to the governor. Chief Justice Recktenwald is now requesting public comment on the nominees not yet confirmed.
Five justices, including the recently appointed McKenna, sit on the Hawaii Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Rechtenwald. All are initially appointed to 10-year terms by the governor of Hawaii. Candidates are presented to the governor by the Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission and subject to confirmation by the Hawaii Senate. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, Hawaii residents and be licensed to practice law for at least 10 years prior to nomination. The Judicial Selection Commission can opt to retain incumbent justices for additional ten-year terms. All justices must retire at the age of 70.
For the vacant seat on the state Supreme Court, the commission had nominated Derrick H.M. Chan, Daniel R. Foley, Sabrina McKenna, Craig H. Nakamura and Richard W. Pollack.
Nominated to First Circuit Court were Leslie A. Hayashi, Shirley M. Kawamura, Lono J. Lee, Karen T. Nakasone and Bode A. Uale.
Mimi DesJardins, David M. Jorgensen, Kelsey T. Kawano, Rhonda I.L. Loo, Douglas J. Sameshima and Joseph L. Wildman vied for a slot on Second Circuit Court.