Sunday, November 29, 2015         

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High court hopefuls list is Abercrombie's secret

By Ken Kobayashi


In a departure from the practice of his predecessor, Gov. Neil Abercrombie will not release the names of candidates submitted to him this week for a vacancy on the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Abercrombie received the candidate list from the Judicial Selection Commission for his first judicial selection and the first of what could be three appointments to the five-member high court during his four-year term.

"The governor believes getting the names out is detrimental to attracting prospective judicial applicants," his spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said yesterday.

"His approach in making judicial appointments is to ensure the confidentiality of these applicants."

The vacancy was created last year by former Gov. Linda Lingle's appointment of Associate Justice Mark Recktenwald as chief justice. The high court has been elevating circuit judges to fill in as a substitute justice.

The associate justice appointment is for a 10-year term.

The commission operates in secret under a confidentiality provision of the 1978 state constitutional amendment that created the panel.

Lingle released the names of the candidates from the commission and sought public comment before she made her selections. Her predecessor, Gov. Ben Cayetano, released the names after he made his appointment.

Former Govs. George Ariyoshi and John Waihee did not disclose the names.

Former Chief Justice Ronald Moon, who appointed state district judges, also made the lists public and sought input before making his choices.

Recktenwald, who has yet to appoint a district judge, said he will continue Moon's practice of releasing the names, Judiciary spokesman Mark Santoki said.

It was not clear yesterday when the governor would nominate the associate justice, but if he does not make the selection within 30 days from when he got the names, the commission will make the nomination from the list, according to the state Constitution.

In addition to filling the current vacancy, Abercrombie would name replacements for two other associate justices who must retire under the constitutionally mandatory retirement provision at age 70.

All judicial appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

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