Susan Oki Mollway:
The U.S. Senate just extended her 23-month wait
to become a district court judge.

Island lawyer’s
judicial appointment

Susan Oki Mollway is held up
by a senator from sitting on
the U.S. District Court

By Pete Pichaske

WASHINGTON -- Susan Oki Mollway's long wait for the U.S. Senate to approve her appointment as a district court judge keeps getting longer.

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week postponed a scheduled vote on Mollway, a Honolulu attorney first nominated 23 months ago to sit on the U.S. District Court serving Hawaii.

The delay was requested by Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Missouri, who was not a member of the committee last year when Mollway's nomination was reviewed. Ashcroft requested another hearing on the nomination.

Because the Senate is expected to adjourn for the year this week, the delay pushes back any vote on Mollway until February at the earliest.

It is only the latest in an unending series of delays.

Mollway was first nominated for the judge's job by President Clinton in December 1995.

She breezed through her confirmation hearing the following March, and the next month was unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee.

But then the trouble began. Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., complaining of Mollway's "very, very liberal ideas," placed an indefinite hold on her nomination, although he declined to specify the objectionable ideas.

Mollway then was lumped in with about a half-dozen Clinton appointments on whom GOP Senate leaders refused to vote until after the 1996 election, apparently hoping that Clinton would lose and a Republican president could make his own choices.

But Clinton won, and almost immediately renominated Mollway.

This time around, the opposition seemed to have dissipated and approval appeared likely, until Ashcroft's move last week.

A spokesman for the Missouri senator said Ashcroft merely wanted the chance to personally question Mollway.

"He takes the nomination process very seriously," said Greg Harris, noting that the 14 other judges voted on last week all had been reviewed in hearings this year.

Harris said he did not know if Ashcroft had political objections to Mollway.

"I think he just thinks a senator should be able to hold a hearing and flesh out a nominee's ideas before he votes," he said.

Mollway, 47, a partner in the Honolulu law firm of Cades Schutte Fleming & Wright, declined to comment on the latest snag.

Sen. Daniel Inouye who has championed the Mollway nomination, said Ashcroft's position was at least consistent with the committee's.

He noted that the panel has not approved any of the renominations who have not had a second hearing this year.

"It's not fair, but I suppose she's not the only one going through this," said Inouye, who last year called the Senate's failure to confirm Mollway his biggest disappointment of the session.

"I feel bad, but there isn't much I can do. I know that she, and her law firm, are going through rather trying times."

Inouye noted that Mollway is no longer on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii - a possible source of GOP objections last year.

Asked if he expected Mollway to ever be confirmed by the Senate, Inouye said:

"All I can say is, I hope so."

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