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Hawaii News

Chief justice appointee ‘unqualified,’ lawyer says

Honolulu lawyer Eric Seitz wrote to the Hawaii State Bar Association yesterday "strongly" opposing Gov. Linda Lingle’s appointment of appeals Judge Katherine Leonard as the next chief justice.

Seitz wrote that Leonard lacks the administrative experience to head the Judiciary and is "ill equipped and unqualified" for the job.

The bar association is soliciting comments from lawyers due by noon tomorrow to make a recommendation to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is holding a hearing on the appointment next Tuesday.

Eric Seitz:
He says at least 40
lawyers expressed re-
servations to him

Lingle appointed Leonard last week to the 10-year term to replace Chief Justice Ronald Moon, who must retire under state law before Sept. 4, when he turns 70.

The appointment is subject to Senate approval, but the senators must act within 30 days of the appointment or it is deemed approved.

Lyn Flanigan, executive director of the bar association, said the 20-member board of the bar association hopes to submit a recommendation to the Senate committee by next Tuesday.

The bar association’s board gave Leonard a "qualified" rating for her appointment to the Intermediate Court of Appeals in 2008. The board was almost evenly split between "qualified" and "highly qualified."

Some senators expressed concerns at the time about Leonard’s lack of judicial experience, but the Senate ended up voting 23-0 confirming the appointment.

Since then the association has dropped the "highly qualified" rating. The recommendation for Leonard this time will be either "qualified" or "not qualified," according to Flanigan.

Seitz wrote that he had informally spoken to at least 40 lawyers, including former bar presidents and retired judges, and all expressed "reservations and concerns" about the appointment.

He wrote that other than her two years on the bench, he and other bar members are "not aware of any other experiences" that qualifies her for the job. He also wrote Leonard does not have the temperament for the position.

Seitz later declined to name any of the 40 lawyers, saying they would have to step forward themselves.

He said he plans to testify before the Senate committee in opposition to the appointment.


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