Lingle appeals for approval of judge
Some senators worry that the governor's nominee has never served on the bench
Gov. Linda Lingle is urging the state Senate to approve her nomination of Katherine Leonard to the state Intermediate Court of Appeals and leave the politics out of the decision.
In an informal interview yesterday, Lingle told reporters that the Senate Democrats should examine Leonard's qualifications and not try to maneuver Lingle into picking another nominee.
"If they want to be the ones to decide (who is nominated), they should run for governor," Lingle said.
Lingle's first nomination to the appellate court, Oahu Circuit Judge Randal Lee, was rejected by the Senate during its special session last month. There is a 30-day requirement for the governor to name and the Senate to confirm or reject a replacement appointment.
Democrats then complained that Lee, a former city deputy prosecutor, had been a judge for only two years and did not have enough experience to move up to the appellate court.
Now senators are saying that Leonard, a partner in the Carlsmith Ball law firm, has never been a judge.
"Randy Lee probably had more experience than her," said Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa), Judiciary Committee chairman. "That relative experience seemed to weigsh heavily in the Randy Lee case, and if that is the case, it might be a factor."
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa dismissed Lingle's criticism, saying if "it was as simple as being a rubber stamp, we would not have the advice and consent function in the Constitution."
Lingle noted that at least one senator, Sen. Lorraine Inouye, has said she thought two of the others on the list of nominees sent to Lingle by the Judicial Selection Commission had more judicial experience.
"Under our Constitution the governor gets to pick which one of the six to send down, and then the Senate is supposed to make a judgment on that person's qualifications to be a judge, not as to whether that is the person they want from the list," Lingle said.
Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) responded, saying that "there is no judge-shopping going on."
Taniguchi's Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing this morning on the Leonard nomination. The Senate will go into a one-day special session Monday to consider the nomination.
Leonard, a civil attorney, was given a rating of "qualified" by the Hawaii Bar Association board of directors.
According to Jeff Portnoy, Hawaii Bar Association president, Leonard authorized him to release the vote tally.
Portnoy said eight board members found Leonard "qualified," seven said she was "highly qualified" and two said she was "not qualified."
Lingle said she thought the vote showed Leonard should be confirmed and challenged those who found Leonard "not qualified."
"I can't imagine what they were thinking," Lingle said. "She is a partner in a major law firm, she was editor of the law review when she went to law school at the University of Hawaii and she is an outstanding individual."