The Trump administration has nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Otake as the new federal district judge for Hawaii.
The move comes as something of a surprise as Otake, an ‘Iolani School graduate who has spent most of her legal career in criminal litigation as a prosecuting attorney, was one of three people recommended by U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz to replace outgoing Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway, who became a senior judge, two years ago when Barack Obama was still president.
Hirono and Schatz announced Otake’s nomination this morning in a joint statement.
Otake, private attorney Clare Connors and former state Attorney General David Louie were initially reviewed and recommended by the seven-member Federal Judicial Selection Commission.
The Obama administration ultimately nominated Connors, but she was never given a vote in the U.S. Senate and the position has remained vacant.
The Trump administration apparently drew from the same list of recommendations to select Otake.
Otake graduated from Georgetown University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian language, and the University of Washington School of Law.
She previously served as a deputy prosecuting attorney for King County, a clerk for Hawaii State Supreme Court Justice Simeon Acoba, and an assistant U.S. Attorney for Washington State.
In Washington, Otake handled several successful prosecutions, including one against the operator of a popular Thai restaurant chain who paid employees to enter into sham marriages with her relatives so they could stay in the United States.
Otake returned to Hawaii in 2014 to work as an assistant U.S. attorney. Here, she has successfully prosecuted a federal racketeering case involving a Halawa Correctional Facility guard who accepted bribes to smuggle drugs into the facility and a gang member who orchestrated the severe beating of an inmate. Both were affiliated with the powerful USO Family prison gang.
Otake also prosecuted Ailsa Jackson, who allegedly conspired with U.S. Army medic Sgt. Michael Walker to murder Walker’s wife, Catherine.
Otake is the sister of local defense attorney Thomas Otake.