Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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OIP punts on judge list ruling

Whether the names can be kept secret is a matter for the courts, the agency says

By Ken Kobayashi


The Office of Information Practices, which administers the state open-records law, will not render an opinion on Gov. Neil Abercrombie's refusal to disclose the names of judicial candidates, the director of the office said yesterday.

In an email to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and the online news service Civil Beat, Cheryl Kakazu Park, director of the office, said issuing an advisory opinion would be "futile" because "court action is necessary to resolve this specific dispute." No one has brought a lawsuit in this matter.

Both news organizations appealed to the office after the governor refused to make public the names of judicial candidates for a vacancy on the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Abercrombie appointed Sabrina McKenna to the post this year but has refused to disclose the names of other candidates sent to him by the Judicial Selection Commission.

Park cited a response from Deputy Attorney General Charleen Aina, who wrote that the governor won't release the names until a court rules that he is "mistaken" in his rationale for his refusal.

<t-6>The governor contends that potential candidates would be deterred from applying if they knew their names might be made public.

"It has been OIP's longstanding policy and practice to defer to the courts when an issue pending before OIP is also within the scope of a related litigation and thus has the potential to be addressed by the court," Park wrote.

Abercrombie appointed Park as director, replacing Cathy Takase, who had said the governor must release the names under the state open-records law.

Takase relied on a 2003 opinion by the office, but Park said the governor has argued the opinion did not set precedence.

Abercrombie's office has said replacing Takase was not related to her position on releasing the names.

The governor's refusal is a departure from the practice of his predecessor, Linda Lingle, who released the names of candidates and sought public comment before she made her appointment.

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