A legal challenge to Brian Schatz’s 2012 appointment to the U.S. Senate has been dismissed.

Judge Derrick Watson of the District of Hawaii ruled Feb. 23 that Hamamoto v. Abercrombie is moot, as the plaintiffs waited too long to bring their case.

The lawsuit came from John Roco, a Republican who lost to Cam Cavasso in the 2014 Senate primary. Cavasso then lost the general election to Schatz.

Roco alleged that Schatz’s appointment was unconstitutional, arguing that Gov. Neil Abercrombie should have been allowed to pick whomever he wanted to replace Dan Inouye after the U.S. senator’s death in December 2012.

John Roco

John Roco.


The governor ultimately chose Schatz, his lieutenant governor, from a list of three approved candidates from the Democratic Party of Hawaii. Schatz won the “special election” last year over U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to fill the remaining two years left on Inouye’s six-year term.

The news of the lawsuit’s dismissal was mentioned in this article in The Atlantic, which looks at the “confusing language” of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The author of The Atlantic piece concludes:

The text leaves a puzzle: Can the legislature “empower” the governor just to fill a vacant seat for the rest of the term?  How could that be a “temporary appointment”? What happens to the idea that the Senate is to be “elected by the people”? Where else in the Constitution do we give one person the power to appoint a constitutional official? I have done a good deal of research in the history of the Amendment, and cannot find an explanation of this provision anywhere.

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