Curfew should ground
young drunken drivers


MADD is asking for tougher laws to reduce drunken driving.

DESPITE stricter laws and increased public warnings about the dangers of drinking before getting behind the wheel, figures that reflect the occurrence of drunken driving in Hawaii are discouraging. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is seeking to heighten public awareness and make the laws even tougher. Both fronts are worth pursuing in Hawaii.

Alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Hawaii declined slightly from 54 in 2000 to 46 last year, but each of those totals was up from 43 in 1999. That follows a national trend of increased drunken driving-related traffic deaths during the past four years, says Yvonne Nelson, president of MADD-Hawaii. To counter the trend, the Hawaii chapter will join its national organization in pushing for increased enforcement of drunken-driving violations, tougher penalties against high-risk or repeat offenders and reducing underage drinking.

The prime area of potential improvement in Hawaii is the reduction of drinking by underage drivers. Eighteen of the traffic deaths in 2000 were of drivers and passengers ages 15 to 20. This year's Legislature allowed to die in joint conference a bill that would have created a 10 p.m. curfew for young drivers, requiring that drivers under 18 be accompanied by a licensed driver over 21. The bill, proposed by Youth in Action, the teenage arm of MADD, was aimed at discouraging underage driving by young people. It should be approved in the Legislature's next session.

Hawaii laws concerning drunken driving are adequate in most other areas. MADD-Hawaii intends to focus much of its attention on making young people more aware of the risks. The organization plans an educational program for elementary through high school students this fall. In addition, the Honolulu Police Department will join MADD-Hawaii in coordinating high-publicity sobriety checks of motorists during the Labor Day weekend and other high-risk holidays.

Carol McNamee, MADD-Hawaii's founder, says the efforts are intended to impress upon people that drunken driving is and will remain a serious problem, both statewide and across the country.



Isles escape bedlam of
judicial election


The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the campaign rhetoric of candidates for elected judgeships cannot be restricted.

OUR founding fathers got it right when they established a federal judicial system run by judges chosen because of merit, but with a democratic foundation. Hawaii's wise decision to follow that practice in the state Constitution has left it outside what the American Bar Association's president calls a Pandora's box created by a U.S. Supreme Court allowing free-for-alls in judicial elections in other states.

Thirty-nine states elect some or all of their judges, and most of those states have prohibited judicial candidates from making statements that "commit or appear to commit" them to positions on issues that are "likely to come before the court." That may conform to the niceties of judicial aloofness, but the high court ruled recently that it violates First Amendment protections of free speech.

ABA President Robert E. Hirshorn calls it "a bad decision" because states "are now going to have judicial candidates running for office by announcing their position on particular issues." Of course, that is what politics is all about, and lawyers who run for judgeships are politicians; take note of the $45 million that state supreme court candidates spent in the last election. The problem is that judicial candidates will make commitments and elected judges will make rulings based on public opinion -- or campaign donations -- instead of law.

"Elected judges cannot help being aware that if the public is not satisfied with the outcome of a particular case, it could hurt their re-election prospects," noted Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in a separate opinion flatly opposing the election of judges.

In Hawaii, the Judicial Selection Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor and chief justice, approves of lists of six candidates for each judgeship. The governor selects Supreme Court, Intermediate Court of Appeals and Circuit Court judges, and the chief justice chooses District Court judges from those nomination lists. The state Senate confirms or rejects the nominations.

The system reflects the democratic process because the judicial selections are made by an elected official, the governor -- or by a chief justice who was chosen by the governor -- and confirmed by elected legislators. It was patterned after a federal system in which judicial nominees emanate from the White House and is the most prudent way to prevent a highly politicized judicial system.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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