An evaluation process of all appellate court justices and judges in Hawaii went awry when the data collected by a contractor was irretrievably lost earlier this month.

Now, thousands of attorneys are being asked to resubmit or send new evaluations of the judicial officials by March 6.

“We very much appreciate your understanding of this difficult situation,” Judge Mark Browning said in an email to the attorneys on Monday. “We truly apologize for the inconvenience and wish to convey our appreciation for your patience and understanding.”

Browning, a First Circuit Court judge, is chair of the Judicial Performance Committee tasked with assessing the performance of the Hawaii Supreme Court justices and the judges on the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

House Supreme Court Justices opening day 2019.
The five Hawaii Supreme Court justices on opening day of the 2019 Hawaii Legislature. Office of Hawaiian Affairs Colette Machado is at far right. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The yearly confidential evaluations are administered by the Hawaii Information Consortium, an independent contractor retained as the state’s internet portal manager.

According to Browning, an “inadvertent mistake” resulted in the “irretrievable deletion” of all completed evaluations of the five justices and six judges submitted by attorneys in January and February.

“Please be assured that there was no security breach of any information,” Browning said in his email.

‘Unfortunate Circumstance’

Michael Oki, a research statistician with the Hawaii State Judiciary, said the email was sent to between 4,000 and 5,000 lawyers active with the Hawaii State Bar Association.

The evaluations, which are voluntary and kept anonymous, are used by the Judicial Selection Commission in the process of reviewing an application for a judge or justice’s appointment or retention.

Asked for an update of the data loss, Browning said in an emailed statement Tuesday, “We feel confident that the follow-up to this unfortunate circumstance has been optimal.”

A sample from the 2017 judicial survey. 

Browning said the vendor, HIC, “took immediate responsibility” by informing the judiciary what happened, explaining that the evaluations were “permanently deleted” and assuring the judiciary and attorneys involved that there has “been no security breach.”

Browning said HIC also is taking “immediate steps to ensure that this will never recur.”

A call to Bertrand Ramos, HIC’s general manager, was not immediately returned Tuesday. But Browning’s email to attorneys includes a Feb. 20 message from Ramos that apologized for the “inadvertent error” and “mistake” that led to the data loss.

Ramos said in his statement that HIC has conducted attorney evaluations for district, circuit, appellate, family and per diem judges on behalf of the judiciary since 2007 “as an impartial party.”

The evaluations used to be done on paper but now are completed online.

The website of the state of Hawaii is operated by the Hawaii Information Consortium. Screenshot/2020

In his statement to Civil Beat, Browning said he is hopeful that attorneys will take the time to provide new evaluations “so that the judicial evaluation process may proceed as effectively and expeditiously as it has in the past.”

HIC, established in 2000 by the Hawaii Legislature, is the state’s official website and offers more than 160 digitized government services.

Online services include ordering copies of birth certificates, registering for medical cannabis, viewing the status of individual tax returns and allowing members of the Employees’ Retirement System to access retirement information.

HIC’s mobile app services allow for obtaining arrival times for TheBus, viewing traffic cameras on Oahu, managing the Honolulu bike-share system Biki and searching for registered sex offenders.

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