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Lingle appoints Leonard as chief justice

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Gov. Linda Lingle this afternoon appointed appellate Judge Katherine Leonard as chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Lingle called the appointment of Leonard to a 10-year term an "important and historic" decision, noting that, if approved by the state Senate, Leonard would be Hawaii’s first woman chief justice, and the first graduate of the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson law school to sit on the five-member high court.

"I have chosen a person great character and strong intellect, who possesses effective writing skills and a true commitment to the rule of law," Lingle said.

Leonard would replace Chief Justice Ronald Moon who must step down by Sept. 4 when he turns 70 because of the state’s mandatory retirement law.

Lingle appointed Leonard, 51, the Intermediate Court of Appeals in 2007.

Her appointment as the head of the state’s third branch of government will be subject to Senate approval. Leonard was confirmed 23-0 by the Senate to the appeals court post.

Leonard was a partner with the law office of Carlsmith Ball LLP form 1992 until her appointment to the appeals court. She concentrated on civil litigation.

Leonard was editor-in-chief of the UH Law Review and served as a law clerk for former Associate Justice Robert Klein and as a law clerk at the circuit court in Honolulu.

Leonard said her appointment is a "great honor."

She would be the state’s fifth chief justice.

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