Nominee lacking support in Senate
Katherine Leonard is in line for a seat on a state appellate court
Senate Democrats are saying there is little support for Gov. Linda Lingle's latest nominee to the state Intermediate Court of Appeals, Katherine Leonard.
Although Leonard is a partner in the Carlsmith Ball law firm and has a record of representing clients in civil litigation cases, senators say her lack of judicial experience is hurting her chances of winning confirmation to the appellate court.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the nomination for 9 a.m. Friday at the state Capitol.
The Senate rejected Lingle's first nomination to the court, Circuit Judge Randal Lee, earlier this month, saying he did not have enough experience handling civil litigation.
Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D, Makiki-Manoa), Judiciary Committee chairman, was unavailable for comment yesterday, but other Democrats say Leonard's resume is not impressive.
"The nominee really has some problems," Sen. Lorraine Inouye (D, Hilo-Honokaa) said. "I look at her resume and it doesn't move me at all."
Two others on a list forwarded to Lingle by the Judicial Selection Commission, Circuit Judge Sabrina McKenna and senior Family Court Judge Frances Wong, are more qualified, Inouye said.
"I really have nothing against her, but experience is very important. It is the critical thing to have," Inouye said.
Saying she has "a lot of reservations," Inouye added that she was considering voting no when Leonard comes up for confirmation when the Senate meets in special session on Nov. 19.
Leonard, who has been meeting with senators individually, said yesterday that she is hoping to address the criticism.
"The constitutional requirements for this job do not require judicial experience," Leonard said. "None of the sitting judges (on the appellate court) had judicial experience. It is a fair factor for the senators to consider, but I hope they also consider the experience I do have."
The Senate Republican leader, Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo), defended Leonard, noting that judicial experience is not the overarching qualification for appellate court judges.
"She seems eminently qualified and received in the legal community as a genuine scholar and accomplished lawyer," he said.
Others, including Sens. Robert Bunda (D, Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea) and Will Espero (D, Ewa-Honouliuli-Ewa Beach), also said they have heard concerns about Leonard.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said few senators know much about Leonard's background.
"Right now I haven't heard enough, and I know there is a common question that this person has hardly anything to weigh her by," Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) said, adding that the Judiciary Committee decision on whether to recommend her will be critical.