Complaints about the nomination of David Louie as Hawaii attorney general never materialized in the second and final day of his confirmation hearing.
Despite warnings last week from Senate Judiciary and Labor Chairman Clayton Hee that he had received telephone calls expressing concern about Louie, Hee had nothing to say on the matter Tuesday.
Instead, the senator quizzed the lawyer on his views on taxing pension income, legal representation for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Louie’s role on the Aloha Tower Development Corporation, the retirement age for state judges — even whether white males are protected as a legal class.
Hee finally ran out of questions. Hee and two other senators voted unanimously to advise and consent on the nomination, which now heads to the full Senate for a final vote.
The confirmation hearing did reveal, however, Hee’s political and legal interests, and how the attorney general responds under questioning.
Hee wanted to hear what Louie thought about taxing pension income. The AG advised that the state had the authority to do so but that a legal challenge was possible — pretty much the same thing Louie told Hee the previous week.
Hee also asked Louie about “courses” listed on his curriculum vitae, in particular one on Hawaiian sovereignty. It was not a course, Louie replied, but instead a forum he once moderated.
That led to questions from Hee on Hawaiian issues — something of great interest to Hee, a former OHA chairman. The answers from Louie — e.g., that the issue of past-due payments from ceded-land revenue to OHA must be resolved — seemed to satisfy Hee.
At other times Louie said he did not have an answer for Hee, such as a question on whether OHA has the same limitations placed on it as compared with other state agencies — or if it enjoyed certain prerogatives not enjoyed by other agencies.
“A terrific question,” Louie replied. “I don’t have an answer.”
Louie did assure Hee that the AG’s office had a duty to offer legal representation to OHA and Hawaiian Home Lands, even if an agency like OHA should sue the state.
Hee: “Does the attorney general’s office have an attorney attached to OHA?”
Louie: “Good question. I don’t know the answer to that.”
Hee: “Should they?”
Louie: “I have not looked at the statute.”
Louie was not being evasive. He was answering as a lawyer.
Protecting White Males
The most interesting exchange came when Hee asked Louie whether white males could be considered a protected legal class.
Depends on the facts and situation, said Louie.
Give me an example, said Hee.
(Hee loves to ask for examples, perhaps knowing that it’s tough to come up with good ones on the spot.)
But Louie did give examples.
In terms of suing OHA, for example, white males would not qualify as a class because OHA is set up to help Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.
If, however, a club was organized at a public school that sanctioned the exclusion of white males, “I would think that might be problematic,” said Louie.
The back and forth went on and on, and somewhere along the way audience members began to shift around in their chairs.
After a lengthy discussion about the retirement age of state judges, Hee said, “I need a break — anyone else?”
Hee meant did any other senators have questions for the nominee.
Mike Gabbard did. He observed that Louie had a lot more civil law experience than criminal law.
Yep, said Louie.
No More Questions
Hee called a recess.
When it was over, the questioning involved Louie’s role as a member of the Aloha Tower Development Corporation.
What came out of the ATDC questioning? Louie thinks government should be involved in public works projects.
Hee asked a few more questions, this time on how Louie would revamp his office despite budget cuts. Louie said he would draw on attorneys’ expertise to help with continuing staff legal education.
Hee: “I have no more questions. The recommendation is to advise and consent.”
In the end, there was no smoking gun, no other shoe to drop. Sens. Sam Slom and Les Ihara didn’t even bother to show up. (Only three senators were needed for quorum, anyway.)
Maybe Hee just ran out of steam. Second decking for bills is Friday — meaning the bills have to be finalized so that each chamber can vote on them for passage — and session ends in a month.
Judiciary and Labor was also scheduled to hear three governor’s appointments to commissions and councils.
Hee moved them along without asking a single question.
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