Senate should not choose state judges
Some senators are expressing doubts about the confirmation of Katherine Leonard as a state appellate judge.
Murmurs of displeasure in the state Senate about Gov. Linda Lingle's second choice of a new judge on the state Intermediate Court of Appeals reveal the reason for its recent rejection of Circuit Judge Randal Lee to fill the vacancy. The senators have made it clear that they -- not Lingle -- should choose which of the six candidates deemed by the Judicial Selection Commission to be most qualified should be named to the court.
Democratic senators claimed last month that they rejected Lee because of appellate reversals of his rulings, his background as a prosecutor and his lack of experience in civil litigation. Lingle has since nominated Katherine Leonard, a partner in the Honolulu law firm of Carlsmith Ball, to the post. Leonard's experience has concentrated on civil cases, including commercial, trust and environmental law.
Sen. Lorraine Inouye says Leonard's resume "doesn't move me at all." Inouye says she regards Circuit Judge Sabrina McKenna and Family Court Judge Frances Wong, who are on the commission's list of candidates, to be more qualified.
Some senators say Leonard's lack of judicial experience is hurting her chance to be confirmed, even though none of the judges now sitting on the state's penultimate appeals court had previous experience as a judge. "The constitutional requirements for this job do not require judicial experience," Leonard points out.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the reason senators opposed Lee and might vote against Leonard's confirmation is because they were nominated by a Republican governor. The notion that Democratic senators should decide who from the commission's list of six should be chosen for the bench makes a mockery of the state Constitution.
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