Attorneys undercut
judicial nominee

The bar association calls a Maui
colleague unqualified for the job


Wednesday, March 24, 2003

>> The state Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Ted Hong to a Hilo Circuit Court judgeship, but the full Senate rejected the appointment. A Page A1 article yesterday incorrectly said the committee had rejected Hong.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

The Hawaii Bar Association says Simone Polak, a 15-year deputy Maui prosecutor, is not qualified to be a district judge, the group's second negative judicial recommendation this month.

Polak, 43, was nominated to the District Family Court on Maui by Chief Justice Ronald Moon after her name was included in a list of six potential nominees forwarded to Moon by the Judicial Selection Commission.

The bar association said two weeks ago that the state's chief labor negotiator, Ted Hong, was not qualified to be a circuit judge. It came out with a recommendation against Polak last week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which rejected Hong's nomination, will hold a hearing on the Polak nomination tomorrow.

Polak said the bar association told her she is not qualified for the position because of "a lack of substantive litigation experience and domestic law experience."

Association President Dale Lee said the board voted 10-2 that she is not qualified.

"The board found that, inasmuch as the District Court is a court of broad jurisdiction, Ms. Polak's absence of a substantive civil litigation and/or Family Court experience outweighs her experience working with the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney," Lee said.

Polak, a graduate of City University of New York and Mc-George Law School at the University of the Pacific, has been an appellate division attorney for the Maui Prosecutor's Office and had specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault crimes.

Moon picked Polak from a list of six candidates that also included Mimi DesJardins, Kelsey Kawano, Douglas Sameshima, Shawna Sodersten and Kimberly Towler.

Polak is also a former New York City emergency medical technician and was a staff sergeant in the Air Force.

"While I admittedly have limited civil legal experience, my legal, medical and military background proves that I am a quick study, capable of adapting and fitting in, learning new things, being a team member as well as a leader," Polak said in her resume.

Polak said yesterday she applied for the judgeship because she felt she could contribute.

"I feel I contributed to the community and have touched some people's lives in a very positive way, and I have gotten a lot of personal satisfaction out of doing my job," she said. "I feel there is something more I can contribute ... but I feel that I should address the issues at the hearing."

Polak's nomination addresses the vacancy left by the retirement of District Judge Eric Romanchak.

After the association said that Hong was not qualified for the bench because of questions regarding his judicial temperament, many of the 13 senators who voted against him said they did so because of the group's comments.

Maui Sen. Shan Tsutsui, who said he had based his vote against Hong on the bar association, said the judgment on Polak would also play a part in his decision.

"I would say it will definitely weigh in my decision, but I have to evaluate all the other testimony," said Tsutsui (D, Wailuku-Kahului).

Attorneys and Maui police officials have already come forward to praise Polak's experience and capabilities.

"In her career as a prosecutor, Ms. Polak has proven herself to be a true professional and an outstanding attorney," Maui police Lt. Jon Morioka said.

One supporter who defended Polak against the bar association charge was Maui public school teacher Roberta Kokx, who noted that Polak is also an instructor with the University of Phoenix and "models and teaches the spirit of lifelong learning."

"With all due respect to the bar association decision, I know that Ms. Polak has the capabilities to learn new areas of the law and apply them in a fair and consistent manner," Kokx said.

Critics have faulted the bar association process because it is based on a closed-door decision made by an executive committee that reviews anonymous e-mails regarding the nominee.


Lingle names Big Isle
lawyer to Circuit Court

Veteran Big Island attorney Glenn Shoichi Hara was named to the 3rd Circuit Court in Hilo by Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday.

Hara, the son of former Democratic state Sen. Stanley Hara, is a partner with the law firm of Roehrig Wilson & Hara.

Hara replaces Ted Hong, who was rejected 13-12 by the Senate on March 12.

Hong, Lingle's chief union negotiator and an interim member of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, is a former associate with Hara's law firm.

Lingle praised Hara yesterday, saying the "the Big Island community will benefit greatly from his experience, work ethic and fairness."

"Glenn has a broad and balanced background in the legal profession, and he will make an excellent judge," Lingle said.

Hara is also a former per diem district judge.

Lingle picked Hara from the five remaining candidates on the list of six sent to her by the Judicial Selection Commission.

After Hong was rejected, Lingle had 10 days to send the Senate another name from the list. The Senate has 30 days to confirm or reject the nomination.


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