Attorney is new Appeals choice
Private-sector attorney Katherine Grace Leonard has been nominated by Gov. Linda Lingle to fill a vacancy on the state Intermediate Court of Appeals.
Her nomination came yesterday three days after the Senate, during its special session on the Superferry, voted 16-9 against the confirmation of Oahu Circuit Judge Randal K.O. Lee to the same post.
"I'm very honored to be considered for this position," Leonard said yesterday. "The Intermediate Court of Appeals plays a pivotal role in Hawaii's Judiciary, and I'm looking forward to meeting and talking to the senators about the appointment."
Leonard, a partner with the law office of Carlsmith Ball LLP, has concentrated on civil litigation, including commercial, trust and environmental law, Lingle's office said in a news release. Some of her clients have included banks and other lenders, trustees of large trusts, and other large and small businesses with commercial disputes, according to the release.
Her nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.
The Senate has 30 days to take up the nomination, which means the 25 members would have to convene for their third special session of the year.
A one-day special session in July was held to override 11 of the governor's 27 vetoes, followed by the six-day special session that concluded Wednesday addressing the issue of the Hawaii Superferry.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said the members were ready to convene, but timing still has to be worked out because Judiciary Chairman Brian Taniguchi is out of town. His committee would be the first to have a hearing on Leonard's nomination before it goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) said she had no knowledge of Leonard's background or qualifications.
"The process is going to have to be followed, and we'll see how, first, the Judiciary (Committee) looks at it and then, after that, the whole Senate," Hanabusa said.
A graduate of the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, Leonard earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Parkside. She previously worked as a law clerk at both the First Circuit Court and the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Leonard was among six potential nominees, along with Lee, sent to Lingle by the Judicial Selection Committee for the vacant position. The post has been vacant since June, when Judge John S.W. Lim died.
Although Lee had been recommended 6-0 by the Judiciary Committee, four of the "yes" votes were cast "with reservations," meaning committee members still had concerns.
Lee, a former prosecutor, is perhaps best known for taking on elected officials over campaign finance abuses.
Although he received a voluminous amount of testimony in support of his nomination, opponents testified they did not feel he had enough experience as a csivil litigator, and also questioned some of his rulings and past practices.