Final push made for Lee
Gov. Linda Lingle and Attorney General Mark Bennett launched a last-minute lobbying campaign urging senators to confirm her nomination of Oahu Circuit Judge Randal Lee to the Intermediate Court of Appeals.
Although Lee received a 6-0 vote of support from the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, four of the votes -- including those of the committee's chairman and vice chairman -- were cast "with reservations," an indication that those members still had some concerns about the recommendation.
Lee's confirmation vote in the Senate was expected to take place Monday, but a memo to Democratic senators yesterday said majority members would discuss his nomination in caucus after their floor session that day.
Exactly what will be discussed was unknown, but Bennett and Lingle were seen visiting various Senate offices yesterday afternoon, and Lingle said she would continue lobbying efforts on Lee's behalf.
"We're going to work hard until the vote is taken to make certain that we present what we believe is a very accurate picture of Judge Lee to the senators," Lingle told the Star-Bulletin. "We are going to continue talking with them, myself, and I'm certain that's part of what the attorney general is doing right now, because he believes so much in Judge Lee.
"We're just sharing our views about why he should be confirmed for this position."
Also circulating among sen- ators was a 20-page letter written by Bennett outlining the administration's position on Lee and including quotes from prominent attorneys on his qualifications.
"Judge Lee is a man of whose achievements we can all, as citizens of Hawaii, be very proud," the letter stated in part. "He is a man, I believe, who each of us would hold up as a role model to our colleagues, our friends and our children."
Lee, a former Honolulu deputy prosecutor, is perhaps best known for taking the lead in prosecutions against some high-profile politicians investigated by the Campaign Spending Commission and its former executive director, Robert Watada.
Lee has served as a Circuit Court judge on Oahu since Lingle nominated him to that post in 2005. His nomination to the Circuit Court was approved unanimously.
At his committee confirmation hearing Thursday, seven people -- all attorneys -- testified against Lee, saying they did not feel he had enough experience as a civil litigator. They also questioned some of his rulings and past practices.
Committee Vice Chairman Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) said he was most concerned about the Hawaii State Bar Association's testimony, which said a vote by 16 members of its board came out evenly split. Eight members rated Lee as unqualified for the appeals court; eight others rated him qualified or better.
"It's clear to me that regardless of whatever their reason was, it was compelling enough that 50 percent of those that cast votes voted no," Hee said.