Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission

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The nine-member Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission plays a crucial role in the selection of judges and justices to state courts. The commission evaluates applicants for open judge and justice seats in state courts and decides whether to retain current judges and justices when their terms expire. They meet and vote in secrecy, ostensibly to prevent political interference and retaliation. The commission is nonpartisan and its members serve voluntarily.

Overview

The commission is attached to the state judiciary for administrative purposes. It reviews and assesses nominees for vacant judicial seats at the state level. The commission can accept or request nominees for open vacancies in the judicial courts of Hawaii. When selecting a nominee to fill a vacant post, the commission submits no fewer than four and no greater than six applicants, except for district courts which require a minimum of six nominees.

Individual members vote secretly until a majority selects the required number of nominees.

The commission gives the governor a list of names in alphabetical order with a brief biography of each. The governor picks a nominee, who must then be confirmed by the Senate. For some positions, the Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, rather than the governor, is the appointing authority.

The commission uses several criteria to evaluate their candidates, including:

  • Background of applicant and petitioner
  • Professional skills
  • Integrity and moral courage
  • Legal ability and experience
  • Intelligence and wisdom
  • Compassion and fairness
  • Diligence and decisiveness
  • Judicial temperament

Commission Members

The commission is composed of nine members two selected by the Governor, two by the House, two by the Bar, and one by the Supreme Court chief justice. No more than four members can be licensed attorneys. The chairperson and the vice-chairperson cannot both be attorneys at the same time. Members of the commission are selected for six year terms and cannot be re-elected.

Member Term Appointing/Electing Authority
Richard A. Dubanoski 04/02/16 – 04/01/19 Chief Justice
James A. Kawachika 04/02/13 – 04/01/19 Bar
Jackie Young, Chair 04/02/17 – 04/01/19 Governor
Mike Middlesworth, Secretary 01/11/15 – 04/01/20 Senate President
Keith W. Hunter 04/09/15 – 04/01/21 Governor
Bryan Kageyama 04/09/15 – 04/01/21 House Speaker
Ronette M. Kawakami, Vice Chair 04/09/15 – 04/01/21 Bar
Trudy K. Senda 04/02/17 – 04/01/23 Senate President
Paul M. Ueoka 04/02/17 – 04/01/23 House Speaker

Contact Information

Judicial Selection Commission
417 South King Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813-2902
Telephone: (808) 538-5200
Fax: (808) 538-5205
Email: JudSelect.Comm@courts.state.hi.us

Resources

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Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission
Why Are Hawaii Judicial Nominees Mostly Men? Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Why Are Hawaii Judicial Nominees Mostly Men?

UPDATED: In part it’s because male attorneys outnumber female attorneys in the islands, and fewer women apply for judge jobs than men.

Hawaii Governor Appoints Former Campaign Manager To Be Judge Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Hawaii Governor Appoints Former Campaign Manager To Be Judge

Keith Hiraoka was one of three appointments Gov. David Ige made to the 1st Circuit Court.

Senate Kills Last Bill That Would’ve Reformed Judiciary Renewal Process Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Senate Kills Last Bill That Would’ve Reformed Judiciary Renewal Process

After encountering overwhelming criticism, all three of Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran's bills to change the way judges are chosen and retained have died.
Senators to Decide if Lawyer Labeled ‘Unqualified’ Should Be Big Island Judge Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Senators to Decide if Lawyer Labeled ‘Unqualified’ Should Be Big Island Judge

UPDATED Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approves judicial nominees Masunaga, Crabtree and Kuriyama. Full Senate vote set for Thursday.
Abercrombie: Change Retirement Age for Judges

Abercrombie: Change Retirement Age for Judges

Hawaii governor says age limit of 70 deprives state of wider pool of experienced candidates.
Off The Beat: Another Judge Selected Without Public Input

Off The Beat: Another Judge Selected Without Public Input

Gov. Neil Abercrombie keeps secret list of Circuit Court nominees.
Gov Willing To Fight For Judge Secrecy In Court

Gov Willing To Fight For Judge Secrecy In Court

Abercrombie makes his case with Office of Information Practices.

New Director For Hawaii Open Records Agency

UPDATED Cheryl Kakazu Park will be the new head of the Hawaii Office of Information Practices.

OIP: Abercrombie Must Reveal Judge Candidates

State lawyers say short list must be released after confirmation.
Fighting for Hawaii High Court Short List

Fighting for Hawaii High Court Short List

Abercrombie's Supreme Court nominee unveiled as also-rans stay secret. Move is legal, but breaks with predecessor.
Beatup Thursday on Judicial Nominations

Beatup Thursday on Judicial Nominations

At our next forum at Civil Beat, we'll discuss the role of the Hawaii State Bar Association in the judicial nomination process. Hear from key thought leaders.