The State Senate should not confirm Katherine Grace Leonard as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.
Leonard is just one name from a list submitted by the Judicial Selection Commission to the governor for the court vacancy. The State Bar Association is saying that she’s unqualified for the job. If there’s any doubt about Leonard’s qualifications, we should move to the next candidate.
Our goal, simply put, should be to find the best person for the job. If that takes time, so be it. But it’s worth it, particularly given the decade-long initial term which the new Chief Justice would receive.
The sex-equality argument raised by Hawaii Women Lawyers is a red herring. Hawaii has proven over the centuries that we’re not limited to male leadership: We’ve had chiefesses, queens, a female governor, and transgendered elected officials. Leonard said it her itself in her introductory remarks: She doesn’t want to be the best woman for the job, but rather, the best person for the job.
She may not fit that bill. We need to examine the other candidates on the list.
The last days of an unpopular lame-duck governor is the wrong time to lock our state into a decade-long controversial pick for our top judicial office.
If there’s any doubt about her fitness for the job—and there clearly is—by all means, let’s take some time, and work our way through the candidates until we find the right person for the job.
These are the other nominees presented to the governor by the Judicial Selection Commission in June:
Bert I. Ayabe – Current position: circuit judge, Circuit Court of the First Circuit. Prior experience: district judge, District Court of the First Circuit; partner, Dandar & Ayabe; private practice, Bert I. Ayabe, Attorney at Law; partner, Hisaka Furosho Ayabe & Goto; associate, Kim Sterns Lines & Moore; associate, Bollington Stilz & Bloeser; associate, Kobayashi Watanabe Sugita & Kawashima.
Daniel R. Foley – Current position: associate judge, Intermediate Court of Appeals. Prior experience: partner, Partington & Foley; solo practitioner; adjunct professor of civil rights, University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law; legal director, ACLU Hawai‘i; legal counsel to various Micronesia government bodies; associate, Carrow Jones Applen & Forest, Marin County, California.
Craig H. Nakamura – Current position: chief judge, Intermediate Court of Appeals. Prior experience: associate judge, Intermediate Court of Appeals; assistant United States attorney; adjunct professor, University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law; associate, Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel; law clerk, Judge Herbert Choy, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Richard W. Pollack – Current position: circuit judge, Circuit Court of the First Circuit. Prior experience: state public defender, Office of the Public Defender; deputy public defender, Office of the Public Defender; adjunct professor, University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law; associate, Sherman S. Hee, A Law Corporation; associate, Morris J. Pollack, Attorney at Law.
Mark E. Recktenwald – Current position: associate justice, Hawai‘i Supreme Court. Prior experience: chief judge, Intermediate Court of Appeals; director, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs; assistant United States attorney; partner, Marr Hipp Jones & Wang; associate, Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel; law clerk, Chief Judge Harold Fong, U.S. District Court.