Friday, November 27, 2015         

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McKenna confirmed for high court

By Ken Kobayashi


Family Court Judge Sabrina McKenna promised to do her best after state senators unanimously approved her appointment yesterday to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

"I feel like I'm living a dream, an American dream, that it is possible to come from humble beginnings and achieve the highest heights," McKenna said.

"I'm just honored to be here."

McKenna, 53, Gov. Neil Abercrombie's first judicial appointment, was approved for a 10-year term to the five-member high court.

McKenna, a state district and circuit judge for 17 years who helped oversee the Family Court's move to the Kapolei court complex last year, will be the first graduate of the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law to sit on the Supreme Court.

She will join the court with Associate Justice Paula Nakayama, which will mark the first time that the court will have two women, Senate Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee noted.

McKenna will also be the first openly gay member of the high court.

Hee as well as Sen. Sam Slom, the only Republican in the Senate, and other senators praised McKenna and urged her confirmation.

Sen. Malama Solomon said she hopes McKenna will provide guidance on providing proper recognition to native Hawaiians.

McKenna, who was born in Japan and raised by a single mom after her father died when she was 9, said she is a "proud graduate" of the law school named after the late chief justice, one of the few law schools with courses on native Hawaiian rights.

"I do not know what (native Hawaiian) issues will come up, but I will address them and do my best to add to the jurisprudence of the state," she said.

The senators approved the appointment by a 23-0 vote. McKenna's swearing-in date has not yet been set, but Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said he hopes it will be within a month.

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