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Governor must disclose judicial candidate list, judge rules

By Ken Kobayashi

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:03 p.m. HST, Nov 14, 2011


A state judge ruled today that Gov. Neil Abercrombie must disclose the names on the lists of candidates that he uses to make his judicial appointments.

Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto granted the request by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for a judgment directing the governor to release the names under the state open records law.

State lawyers had argued that the governor does not have to release the names because of exemptions to the law.

One exemption was that the disclosure would hamper the appointment process because lawyers would be deterred from applying for judgeships if the names are disclosed.

But Sakamoto said the state did not produce any evidence supporting that point.

“The court believes (the governor) has not shown the exceptions apply in this case,” Sakamoto said. 

"The public is entitled to information of this sort and we are pleased that Judge Sakamoto has agreed," said Frank Bridgewater, vice president/editor of the Star-Advertiser. "The more informed the public is, and the more open government is, the better."

Deputy Attorney General Charleen Aina said she can’t say whether the state will appeal until she consults with Attorney General David Louie.
 
Louie issued a statement saying: "Obviously, we are disappointed with Circuit Court's oral ruling today. Once we receive the court's written order and have the opportunity to thoroughly review it and consider other relevant factors, we will decide how to respond."
 
Of Sakamoto’s ruling, Aina said, “He definitely gave great thought to it.
 
“It was very detailed, and while it’s not what we believed the conclusion should have been, it’s clear he looked at all of the exceptions the governor relied upon to withhold the list (of names).” 

Diane Hastert, the Star-Advertiser’s lawyer, said, “We are extremely pleased.”

“Judge Sakamoto thoroughly analyzed all of the complex issues in the case and concluded the public has the right to know the names of individuals on the Judicial Selection Commission lists,” she said.

Abercrombie refused to release the names given to him by the Judicial Selection Commission when he made his first judicial appointment in selecting Sabrina McKenna in January to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

He has since named two judges to the circuit court and also has not released the names of the commission’s candidates for those positions.

Abercrombie’s refusal is contrary to the practices of his predecessors Ben Cayetano and Linda Lingle and former Chief Justice Ronald Moon and current Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, who all disclose the names on the commission lists that they used to make their judicial appointments.






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