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State Senate confirms 3 judges

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The state Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to confirm two Circuit Court judges on Oahu and one District Court judge on Hawaii island to the bench.

Jeffrey Crabtree, a private attorney who specialized in consumer protection, personal injury, malpractice and end-of-life medical issues, was confirmed to the Circuit Court.

Christine Kuriyama, a Family Court judge, was also confirmed to the Circuit Court. Before she was a judge, Kuriyama was a private attorney, deputy attorney general, administrator at the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and staff attorney for the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and state House Democrats.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Crabtree and Kuriyama for 10-year terms to replace Judge Patrick Border, who was not re-appointed for a second term, and Judge Michael Wilson, who was appointed to the state Supreme Court.

The Senate also confirmed Margaret Masunaga, a deputy corporation counsel for Hawaii County, for a six-year term on the District Court. Masunaga, a former deputy attorney general and private attorney, was appointed by Supreme Court Justice Mark Recktenwald and had the support of Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii.

The Hawaii State Bar Association, however, rated Masunaga “not qualified”  for the post. State Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Heeia-Laie-Waialua), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, said the rating was based mostly on the perception that she lacked civil and criminal experience.

Hee told senators that his committee was satisfied with Masunaga’s experience. “There is little reservation, if any, that Margaret Masunaga is qualified and will do a good job as the District Court judge of the Third Circuit,” he said.

All three were confirmed in 24-to-0 votes. One senator was excused.

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