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Monday, November 13, 2000

Be patient in
waiting for
presidential result

Bullet The issue: Many Americans are concerned about the delay in declaring the winner of the presidential election because of the closeness of the results in Florida.
Bullet Our view: Instant gratification should yield to fairness and accuracy in determining who will be the country's next leader.

IN an age of automatic teller machines, microwave ovens and the Internet, having to wait days or even weeks to learn the outcome of a presidential election may seem unreasonable. However, the democratic process is slow and the judicial process even slower. More important is that the issue be resolved correctly without unnecessary haggling.

George W. Bush's campaign is trying to make the case that Al Gore should concede defeat -- the vice president did that once and retracted it on election night -- while Gore's camp promises to fight for a fair finish. Gore makes his argument from the position of having won the popular vote. (With more than a million absentee votes nationwide yet to be counted, even that could change.)

All agree that the only question remaining is the Florida vote, where victory would provide either candidate the 25 electoral votes to put him over the top. Absentee votes are required to be received by Friday, 10 days after last week's election. That gives the Florida courts several days to resolve disputes over alleged irregularities in a timely manner.

Voter confusion should not be considered an irregularity necessitating a second round of voting. Intentional rigging of ballots is another matter, but no credible allegation of widespread fraud has surfaced. No lengthy legal process such as Florida endured in the custody battle over Elian Gonzalez should be required.

"The purpose of our national election is to establish a constitutional government, not unending legal wrangling," said former Secretary of State James Baker, representing Bush in the Florida dispute. Added William Daley, Gore's campaign manager, "I hope all Americans agree the will of the people, not a computer glitch, should select the next president."

Both candidate representatives are right, of course. But there is no reason for Gore to be annoyed that Bush is taking presidential transition actions as if the election outcome were certain. Likewise, Bush should not be bothered by Gore's refusal to be a good sportsman and concede defeat until he is convinced there is no further hope of victory.

The founding fathers scheduled the election more than four months before the change of White House occupants because more time was needed in those days. The interim was reduced to little more than two months in the 1930s. Americans must understand that this election is simply taking longer than what they consider normal to download.

Judicial selection

Bullet The issue: No woman lawyer has ever been appointed to serve on the extremely important Judicial Selection Commission.
Bullet Our view: This shortcoming can be rectified this month in a Hawaii State Bar Association election.

Hawaii's Judicial Selection Commission has the heady responsibility of culling through the names of various applicants for judgeships, then submitting the finalists to the governor or chief justice for appointment. Of the commission's nine members, the governor gets to pick two; the president of the Senate, two; the House speaker, two; the chief justice, one; and the members of the Hawaii State Bar Association (HSBA), two.

The HSBA is currently holding an election to fill a coveted vacancy on the commission, with a trio of well-known, experienced and respected attorneys vying for the seat: Sidney Ayabe, Ralph LaFountaine and Judith Pavey.

With all due respect to the candidacies of Ayabe and LaFountaine, the HSBA can make a resounding statement for gender equity by voting in Pavey, whose victory would make her the first woman lawyer to serve on the local commission.

There's an acknowledged tendency to hire in one's own image, which explains why the mostly male members of the commission, and the governor and chief justice, have picked predominantly men to don the esteemed black robes of the court. In a March 18 View Point column, Nancye L. Bethurem, president of Hawaii Women Lawyers, lamented that Governor Cayetano, despite having more than dozen opportunities to appoint judges, has only given the nod to two women applicants since 1995 (Sabrina McKenna and Karen Ahn). Chief Justice Ronald Moon has a better record, with approximately a third of his judicial selections being women.

The lack of a female attorney on the Judicial Selection Commission is troubling, especially since the commission is dominated by lay people who are generally not as familiar with the law, the courts and the applicants as practicing lawyers. Naturally, the latter may exert strong influence over the non-lawyers on the commission during discussions and the decision-making phase.

Why should the members of the state bar and the public care about a dearth of women judges? It's because, as explained by Bethurem in her View Point column, the judiciary should reflect the diversity of Hawaii's population.

"The shortage of women (judges) causes women, both grown and young, to lose out. Women attorneys who apply for judgeships year after year are discouraged, suspicious that an unstated bias impedes their success, and that their turn will never come. Young women get the message not to try (at all)," wrote Bethurem. "Of all professions that should champion equality of the sexes, lawyers should be at the forefront, and the judiciary should lead by example."

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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