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Tuesday, April 18, 2000

opposes high
court nominee

Peter Carlisle recognizes Simeon
Acoba's ability but says in this
case that the governor's friendship
is superseding merit

By Crystal Kua


Simeon Acoba Jr., the Intermediate Court of Appeals judge tapped to be the next associate justice on the state's highest court by his friend Gov. Ben Cayetano, says he has no agenda if confirmed to the post.

"I have no preconceived ideas about how particular decisions should or should not be made," Acoba told the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning.

Sen. Matt Matsunaga, co-chairman of the committee, said the committee received more than 100 pieces of testimony in support for Acoba's nomination to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

The list included the Hawaii Bar Association, which said Acoba was "highly qualified" for the job; Public Defender Richard Pollack; former Chief Justice William Richardson; and Farrington High School classmate and retired football coach Skippa Diaz, who said that if he were to form a football team, he would make Acoba the quarterback.

Lone opposition to Acoba's appointment came from City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle.

"If you want the best person on the basis of merit who will give us a system of even-handed justice based on common sense, then I suggest to you that this person is not at the top of the list," Carlisle said.

Carlisle said that he had no qualms with respect to Acoba's intelligence, capabilities and legal skills.

Carlisle said that Acoba's rulings tend to be overly technical and lacked common sense.

Carlisle also bemoaned the political nature of judicial selection, pointing out that recent nominees to the high court have been "friends with Ben."

It was Carlisle's former boss -- former city prosecutor Charles Marsland -- who had criticized Acoba over a ruling that a deputy prosecutor did not agree with.

The fracas drew in then Sen. Ben Cayetano, who at one point waved a machete over his head during a Senate speech about Marsland.

Acoba said that of the 301 appellate decisions he has authored, only 16 have been reversed by the state Supreme Court.

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