Judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit have appointed Salina M. Kanai as the next federal public defender in the District of Hawaii.
Kanai, formerly Salina Kanai Althof, succeeds Peter C. Wolff, Jr., who retired last October after 24 years as Hawaii’s federal public defender. Kanai began her four-year term on Tuesday following a short stint in an interim role.
“Salina Kanai’s stellar reputation within the Hawaii legal community and demonstrated commitment to providing strong indigent defense representation will serve her well as the new FPD,” said Circuit Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw in a news release. “With her experience, leadership skills, and ability to inspire, teach, and mentor others, she will ensure that the Hawaii federal public defender office continues to provide the same level of outstanding service the office delivered during Peter Wolff’s long tenure.”
Kanai, an alumnus of ‘Iolani School, received her undergraduate degree from New York University and law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
She started as a criminal appellate attorney at the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York City, then served for five years as a deputy public defender in the State of Hawaii’s Office of the Public Defender and eight years as an assistant federal defender in Hawaii.
Most recently, before rejoining the Federal Public Defender Office, she was in private practice, specializing in state and federal criminal defense and serving as a part-time Family Court judge for the Hawaii State Judiciary.
Kanai will lead approximately 15 employees in Honolulu, including attorneys, paralegals, investigators and administrative personnel. In fiscal year 2020 (ending Sept. 30), the office opened 550 cases and closed 459.