Appellate court pick gets Senate panel OK
The governor's nomination of attorney Katherine G. Leonard to a 10-year term on the state Intermediate Court of Appeals appears headed for approval after receiving the unanimous support from a Senate panel yesterday.
The full Senate is scheduled to vote on Leonard's nomination today.
"I would think she's going to be confirmed," said Sen. Brian Taniguchi, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which voted 6-0 in favor of Leonard's confirmation.
However, Taniguchi was one of two members who voted "with reservations," meaning he still had some concerns about Leonard's confirmation to the appellate bench.
Last month the committee had approved Oahu Circuit Judge Randal K.O. Lee for the same post by a similar 6-0 vote, with four senators voting with reservations. All four members changed to a "no" in the final floor vote as Lee's nomination was defeated.
"I'm just going to wait for the floor vote," said Leonard, a partner in the firm Carlsmith Ball LLP. "I'm very pleased to be here, but I'm not taking anything for granted."
She declined further comment.
Some senators had previously expressed concerns over Leonard's lack of judicial experience.
"It's not unreasonable for the Senate to want to see someone picked by the governor who has suitable judicial experience," said Taniguchi (D, Moiliili-Manoa). "While it should not be a requirement for any judicial position, I believe in this instance it is significant."
Taniguchi said he also had concerns over Leonard's lack of "life experiences."
"She's not widely known," he said.
Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) noted that the committee received all positive testimony -- about 90 written submissions -- in support of Leonard's nomination.
Many who testified on Leonard's behalf last week, including Attorney General Mark Bennett and Hawaii State Bar Association President Jeffrey Portnoy, noted that numerous appellate judges have served with distinction despite having no previous experience on the bench.
Leonard is nominated for a post that has been vacant since June, when Judge John S.W. Lim died.