The answer is still no.

The administration of Gov. Linda Lingle, responding to a Civil Beat request for clarification of the reasons why our original open records request was not fulfilled, on Monday provided a log of communications between the governor’s office and the Judicial Selection Commission, the contents of which she continued to refuse to release.

Last week we explored the important role of the Judicial Selection Commission and the privacy and confidentiality rules that are in place to keep its deliberations secret.

On Aug. 3, Civil Beat asked to review all written correspondence between the Governor’s Office and the commission since Jan. 1 so we could determine for ourselves if the commission expressed, implicitly or explicitly, preferences for one appointee or another, particularly in the writing of nominee biographies sent to the governor.

The list provided by the governor’s office Monday is comprised of undated applicant summaries for 20 nominees for judicial vacancies — five for one associate judge on the Intermediate Court of Appeals; nine for four First Circuit Court judges; and six for the chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court.

From those nominees, Lingle appointed Lisa M. Ginoza, Robert Mark Browning, Jeannette H. Castagnetti, Faauuga L. Tootoo, Collette Y. Garibaldi, Katherine Grace Leonard and now Mark Ellis Recktenwald for new or higher seats on the bench.

While acquiescing to our request that it at least tell us which documents we couldn’t see, the governor’s office still declined to let us see those documents. It relied on Rule 5, Section 2, Part A of the Judicial Selection Commission rules [pdf], which makes all commission records, proceedings and business confidential, though there is a provision that allows some information to be sent to the governor.

The governor’s office also pointed to Section 92F-14(b)(4) of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, which deals with individual privacy. In the cover letter attached to the newest response, Chief of Staff Barry Fukunaga writes that the required disclosure of some private information for sitting judges applies to the Judiciary, not the governor.

Review the governor’s three-page response:

An appeal with the Office of Information Practices has been pending since it was filed Aug. 24. The administration’s newest response was sent to OIP Monday.

DISCUSSION *Do the Judicial Selection Commission’s communications with the governor belong in the public record? Join the conversation.

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