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State mulling appeal of order to disclose judicial names

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 1:43 p.m. HST, Nov 18, 2011

Despite the Judicial Selection Commission's announcement this week that it will release the names of judicial finalists, state lawyers are still considering whether to appeal a state judge's ruling this week that Gov. Neil Abercrombie must make public the commission's lists of candidates for his three appointments this year.

Attorney General David Louie said today that no decision has been made on whether to seek a review of Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto's ruling Monday that granted a request by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for a judgment requiring the governor to release the names.

Sakamoto issued his oral ruling from the bench; the written order of his decision is still being prepared.

Louie said they first wanted to "review and evaluate" the judge's written order.

On Wednesday, the Judicial Selection Commission announced that it has amended its rules and will release its lists of candidates for future appointments the same time it sends the names to the governor and chief justice.

Louie said in a news release today that the commission's decision has the "practical effect" of making the lists public regardless of who releases them.

But he said it doesn't mean the state won't appeal Sakamoto's decision.

"We recognize the right of the Judicial Selection Commission to change its rules and decide on its own authority whether to publicize the names on the list," Louie said.

"But this does not change the holding in (the 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court decision) that provided the governor with the discretion to release the names, contrary to Judge Sakamoto's ruling against the state in the recent case filed by the Star-Advertiser."

The previous two governors routine released the commission's lists.

But Abercrombie refused to release the names when he appointed Sabrina McKenna to the Hawaii Supreme Court and two judges to the circuit court this year.

Under the state constitution, the governor must appoint each state, appeals and circuit court jurist from lists of four to six candidates from the commission.

The chief justice appoints district judges from the commission's lists of at least six names.

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