Judicial nomination slows amid criticism
Character questions become an issue against Glenn Kim
State Sen. Clayton Hee is raising questions about the nomination of city Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Kim to the Circuit Court bench.
"I have received the one letter on the record in opposition, and I have received several telephone calls and I don't take that lightly. I take it very seriously," Hee, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said yesterday at Kim's confirmation hearing.
Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) also quoted an anonymous complaint against Kim, alleging that he "hates women." Hee said the person making the charge had done so privately, but Hee was trying to get the person to come forward.
Kim, a deputy prosecutor since 1993, is supervisor of the domestic violence misdemeanor and felony units.
Forty-three people sent testimony supporting Kim's nomination, including 35 members of the Prosecutor's Office.
But one of the letters came from former Deputy Prosecutor Liza T. Tom, who called Kim "profoundly lacking in integrity, fundamental fairness and high moral principles."
Tom, who said in her letter that she was supervised by Kim, described Kim as someone "who appeared to have a broken moral compass and was possessed of a mean-spirited and vulgar temperament, wholly unsuited to the bench as a judge to the Hawaii circuit court." Tom is now a prosecuting attorney for the Los Angeles County district attorney.
When he testified, Kim had not seen the Tom letter attacking him. He denied the accusations and said he did not know about it or the person who sent the letter.
"I categorically deny what this person is saying about me," Kim said. "When you read what is in this letter, it is like someone kicked me in the gut. All I can say is that it is not true."
Kim has a doctorate in English from Harvard University, graduated at the top of his class at the University of Hawaii law school and won the Bronze Star while serving in the Army during the Vietnam War.
Jeff Portnoy, president of the Hawaii Bar Association, said the bar had reviewed Kim's nomination by Gov. Linda Lingle and found him qualified.
Asked why the bar did not use the higher designation of "highly qualified," Portnoy said, "We did have a small number of comments that were critical."
"We asked the nominee about the comments that were raised and that posed negative comments -- the vote was that he was qualified," Portnoy said, adding that bar association rules precluded him from giving details of the vote.
"In general, I don't think there is a bright line that points out what makes someone qualified and highly qualified; it is by consensus," Portnoy said.
Deputy Prosecutor Thalia Murphy said Kim "treats everyone with whom he comes into contact with respect and compassion. The women and children are safe because of his years of hard work and dedication.
"He is the most brilliant deputy attorney I have ever supervised," Murphy said.
Hee said he would continue the hearings next week because he wanted to get more information.
"My experience has been that people usually send in information after the first hearing that may be contrary to the nomination," Hee said.
Although Hee said he could not dismiss the favorable testimony for Kim, he did say it was "not unusual to have a lot of people testify in favor of a nominee."
Hee said Kim's critics will have to come forward, and he suggested that they might have to be subpoenaed.
"I like things on the record, so these people who asked to speak to me in confidence, I said 'OK,' but at the end of the day, speaking with anonymity will not be what it takes," Hee said.