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Lingle picks 3 former prosecutors for circuit judgeships

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Gov. Linda Lingle this week appointed three Honolulu circuit judges, all with prosecutorial backgrounds and two of them women.

The governor announced yesterday she had named Honolulu District Judges Fa’auuga To’oto’o and Colette Garibaldi and part-time Honolulu District Judge Jeannette Castagnetti to 10-year terms on the circuit bench.

Lingle has not yet announced her chief justice appointment to replace Ronald Moon, who must step down by Sept. 4 when he turns 70 because of the mandatory retirement law.

But with three appointments, which are subject to Senate review, Lingle will have named 17 of the 33 circuit judges throughout the state, signifying her growing legacy with the judiciary.

Under the state Constitution, the appointments become effective in 30 days unless they are rejected by the Senate. The Senate has the option of confirming the appointments earlier.

Brian Taniguchi, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on the appointments, noted the prosecutorial experiences of the appointees and said he would have preferred more of a "mix."

But he said he really hasn’t looked into their backgrounds and can’t say at this point he would opposed them simply because of their experience as prosecutors.

Taniguchi said the fact that two of the three are women was a "positive."

He said they still must pick a date for the hearings, but said it might be the week of Aug. 9.

The Senate this year passed a resolution that "strongly" urged the governor to consider gender equality in her judicial appointments. The resolution noted that seven female judges last year announced their early retirement and said it was "crucial" that women are appointed to the bench.

Asked whether that was a factor for the governor, Russell Pang, Lingle’s spokesman, said the governor chose candidates who were "right for the job." He said the governor previously appointed six women to the bench: three to the six-member Intermediate Court of Appeals and three to circuit court.

Lingle’s three appointments would replace two women — Colleen Hirai and Elizabeth Hifo — and Michael Town.

The selections continue Lingle’s tendency of appointing judges with prosecutorial experience. Fifteen of her 24 choices, including the latest three, have prosecutorial backgrounds, according to Pang.

To’oto’o, a district judge since 1994, served as a city deputy prosecutor for 10 years.

Garibaldi, a district judge since 1997, was a part-time district judge for nine years. She also was a city deputy prosecutor for six years.

Castagnetti, a partner with the Bronster Hoshibata law firm, has been a part-time district judge since 2007. She also worked as a special deputy attorney general representing the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Insurance Fraud Division in state criminal cases. She, too, was a city deputy prosecutor.


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