Thursday, June 16, 2005

State Attorney General Mark Bennett, left, congratulated J. Michael Seabright yesterday afternoon following Seabright's investiture as a U.S. district judge.

Fourth federal judge
is sworn in

J. Michael Seabright fills a seat
left vacant by U.S. District
Judge Alan Kay in 2000

Before more than 100 colleagues, friends and family members, former assistant U.S. attorney J. Michael Seabright was sworn in yesterday as Hawaii's fourth full-time federal judge.

On the bench

Hawaii's four full-time federal judges:

» David Ezra: Nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and has served as chief judge from 1999 to the present. Attended St. Mary's University School of Law and worked for the city before going into private practice from 1972 to 1988.
» Helen Gillmor: Nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994 while in private practice. Attended Boston University School of Law and served as a Hawaii district judge in state family court and District Court.
» Susan Oki Mollway: Nominated by Clinton and confirmed by the Senate in 1998. Attended Harvard Law School and served in private practice and as a University of Hawaii School of Law adjunct professor.
» J. Michael Seabright: Nominated by President Bush in February. Served in private practice in the islands before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney. Attended George Washington University Law School.

Source: Federal Judicial Center

"I feel blessed now to be part of this judicial family," Seabright, 46, told those who gathered at the U.S. District Courthouse for the event. "I will listen to all who come before me, learn from all who come before me."

Seabright filled a seat left vacant in 2000 after U.S. District Judge Alan Kay went on semiretired status. Seabright is expected to ease a heavy caseload for the state's federal judges, who now preside over about 400 trials a year.

"We've been waiting a long time for my replacement," Kay said.

Chief U.S. District Judge David Ezra said it has been "far too long for Hawaii to go without an active federal judge."

Ezra praised Seabright for his community service and strong family ties. "It is a great pleasure for all of us to have Judge Seabright on this bench," he said. "He is a dedicated and loving family man."

In April the U.S. Senate voted 98-0 to confirm Seabright, two months after he was nominated by President Bush. He was one of three candidates Gov. Linda Lingle recommended for the lifetime post.

The other two were state Attorney General Mark Bennett and former state chief labor negotiator Ted Hong.

Ezra and fellow U.S. District Judges Helen Gillmor and Susan Oki Mollway commended Seabright for his trial history.

"We're delighted that he is the one," Mollway said.

Ezra swore Seabright in while the new judge was flanked by his wife and two children. Seabright received a standing ovation as his family helped him put on his black judge's robe.

Seabright joined the U.S attorney's office in 1990 and was named head of the white-collar crime section in 2002.

He prosecuted a number of high-profile white-collar crime cases, including those involving former Honolulu City Councilman Andy Mirikitani, former state Sen. Milton Holt, former state House Speaker Daniel Kihano and eight former Honolulu liquor inspectors.

"This is a great day for the people of Hawaii," said Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Craig Nakamura, who was an assistant U.S. attorney alongside Seabright until 2004. "He cares deeply about the community. ... He always took the high road. I know he's got a good heart."

Seabright got his law degree from George Washington University in 1984 and moved to Honolulu, where he worked at the law firm Carlsmith Ball. In 1987 he started working with the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C., before returning to Hawaii.

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