Tuesday, March 17, 1998

Judge McConnell
will retire May 1

The Maui magistrate was to sit
in on the Bishop Estate cases

By Gary T. Kubota and Rick Daysog

WAILUKU -- Maui Circuit Judge E. John McConnell, among five judges recently selected to sit in for state Supreme Court justices on Bishop Estate cases, today announced he is retiring on May 1.

McConnell, 58, administrative judge for the Maui Circuit, said he will leave the bench to practice dispute resolution and mediation. He will be a panel member with Dispute Prevention and Resolution Inc., joining retired Circuit Judge Patrick Yim, who served as the court-appointed fact finder for the Bishop Estate.

McConnell will serve on the Bishop Estate panel until his retirement on May 1, said Susan DeGuzman, assistant to state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Moon.

Moon selected panel members after the state Commission on Judicial Conduct advised the justices to recuse themselves from Bishop Estate cases.

The Bishop Estate trustees were selected by the Supreme Court justices. Justices recently said they will no longer appoint estate trustees.

Moon will have to select a new substitute judge from the current pool of Circuit Court judges, said James Branham, staff attorney for the Supreme Court.

As for McConnell's replacement for the Maui Circuit Court, the state Judicial Selection Commission will come up with a list of four to six possible replacements. From that group, the governor will appoint McConnell's replacement.

The governor's pick will be subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

The state attorney general's office had no immediate comment on McConnell's retirement.

In his retirement announcement, McConnell said he hoped the Cayetano administration and the state Legislature would address the issue of judges' pay raises. Like other Circuit Court judges, McConnell -- who earns about $86,780 a year -- has not received a pay raise in the past 10 years.

"No one should become a judge to make money. However, given the heavy responsibilities of judges, they at least should receive salary increases commensurate with those of other state employees," McConnell said.

James Krueger, McConnell's neighbor who worked with him in a law firm in the 1970s, said McConnell has been a "valuable commodity" as a judge and a person who could earn many times his judicial salary as an attorney in private practice.

McConnell "brings to the community a really great blend of both judicial intellect, judicial temperament and pragmatism," Krueger said.

"You'll get some judges that have one or two of these but not all three," Krueger said. xxx "He was able to take existing issues and resolve them in modern context. That's a rare ability."

Attorney Mary Blaine Johnston, a per diem judge, said when she first heard about McConnell's retirement about three weeks ago, she spoke with him about remaining on the bench.

Johnston said most attorneys feel McConnell has been fair as a judge and that they were entering a "level playing field" whenever they entered his courtroom.

"I think it's going to be a great loss to the Circuit Court bench," Johnston said.

"I'm real sad about it."

McConnell, a graduate of Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Pa., has worked as a deputy attorney general and deputy director of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

He served as chairman of the state Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board from 1979 to 1984 and was appointed by Democratic Gov. George Ariyoshi in 1985 to serve on the Maui Circuit Court bench.

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