Wednesday, April 16, 2003

James Duffy Jr. drew praise from both parties yesterday.

Both parties laud Lingle’s
choice of a Democrat
for Supreme Court

Mediator James Duffy is seen
as a good fit for the fractious bench

By Richard Borreca

Gov. Linda Lingle has surprised court observers with her pick of former Democratic federal court nominee James Duffy for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

Duffy, 60, a mediator and former partner in the local law firm of Fujiyama Duffy Fujiyama, was widely praised yesterday by both Democrats and Republicans.

Republican Lingle said she was not interested in seeking a partisan nominee, but instead was looking for someone who would get along with the sometimes fractious justices.

"I really was looking for someone who could bring a good demeanor to the court, someone who could take these cases on the facts and the law without bringing in a judicial philosophy, except to not make law except from the legal facts," Lingle said.

The governor, who was making her first Supreme Court nomination, said she also was concerned about the large backlog of cases before the high court and was interested in nominating someone who was interested in moving the work along. Lingle said last week she has heard attorneys and judges complain that the Supreme Court is divided and that personal sniping has led to the backlog.

"You have heard Mr. Duffy mention two times about the primary disposition of cases, his understanding of the need to deal with people and legal issues in a timely way," Lingle said.

Hawaii Supreme Court nominee James E. Duffy Jr., left, met the news media yesterday with Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.

Duffy would fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Associate Justice Mario Ramil in December.

Duffy had been nominated by former Democratic President Bill Clinton to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1999, at the urging of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, but the appointment was stalled by Republicans in Congress and withdrawn when George W. Bush became president. The GOP instead named Hawaii attorney Richard Clifton to the federal appeals court.

Duffy's nomination quickly drew the praise of senators who will have to vote on his confirmation.

"It is a great statement that there is no one in the judicial or legal community that can find fault with the selection," said Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua), Judiciary Committee chairwoman.

"Some of us thought that Mr. Duffy was too politically aligned with the Democratic Party to be a front-runner," said Hanabusa.

She added that Duffy has built a legal practice on mediation and that those skills would be of use on the state high court.

Republican Senate leader Fred Hemmings (Lanikai-Waimanalo) said he was confident that Lingle had done a good job reviewing the six candidates sent her by the Judicial Selection Commission. The others were Circuit Judges Eden Elizabeth Hifo, Sabrina McKenna, Richard Perkins and Richard Pollack, and labor attorney Lowell Chun-Hoon.

Senate President Robert Bunda said Duffy's nomination will "lend credibility to the Supreme Court."

"I think this was a very good choice," Bunda said.

"I have heard how balanced and what a great mediator he is," Bunda added. "We need that balance on the court."

Duffy himself said he had been told that he won Lingle's nomination only an hour before it was made public at a state Capitol news conference.

"I don't have anything prepared to say, but Hawaii has been very good to me and this is an opportunity to pay back," Duffy said.

He is a former Hawaii Bar Association president and had served for the past five years as lead attorney for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and its board of trustees in litigation against the state in the ceded-lands revenue case.

Duffy specialized in personal injury, professional liability, life insurance, commercial law, family court and criminal law.

Duffy graduated from Marquette University of Law and the College of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Hawaii State Judiciary
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