Dan Gluck, the state Ethics Commission director and Gov. David Ige’s pick for a seat on the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals, defended his nomination Tuesday even as some called for him to withdraw and criticized his lack of trial experience compared to women who applied for the vacancy.
For many, Gluck’s nomination has become a symbol of the gender imbalance in Hawaii courts, where women make up far fewer than half of sitting judges. Ige chose Gluck from a list that included Native Hawaiian women, one of whom is a district court judge.
The Hawaii State Bar Association found that Gluck was qualified for the job. But the association president, Levi Hookano, declined to answer multiple questions from state senators about how that evaluation was made.
Gluck said that he was honored to be included on a list with other qualified individuals. While he may not have the same experience in the courtroom as other applicants, he highlighted his years as a civil litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and his work for the Ethics Commission.
Whether the Senate confirms him or not, Gluck believes the process will be fair.
“People have been asking me to withdraw here today. I feel that deeply. I really do,” Gluck said, adding that his nomination followed the process set in the law.
Gluck’s name was included on a shortlist of candidates by the Judicial Selection Commission, a nine-member panel that evaluates applications for judicial vacancies. The governor chooses a nominee from that list.
“I can’t speak, as I sit here today, as to whether those choices were wrong or right,” Gluck said. “The JSC says anyone who is interested in serving should apply. I was interested in serving, so I applied.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to vote on Gluck’s nomination Wednesday morning before sending it to the full 25-member Senate for a floor vote later this week.
Public testimony on Tuesday was split evenly between those supporters and opponents. Written testimony to lawmakers leaned on the side of the opposition.
Kapua Sproat, a University of Hawaii law professor, said more attorneys might have opposed his nomination but are fearful of criticizing a candidate for an appellate court.
“I join in the chorus of opposition based on the nominee’s lack of professional and lived experience in Hawaii, which is all the more stark when compared to others on the shortlist,” Sproat said. “Legal practice experience matters, because the ICA is about volume. And judges need to understand how the rulings will work in practice.”
Crystal Glendon, a Honolulu defense attorney who is Hawaiian, also opposed Gluck’s nomination.
Glendon, who is representing a Honolulu police officer accused of murdering a teenager in a police shooting, said many women go into criminal law to gain experience, and to overlook their trial experience is a disservice.
A spreadsheet circulating in the legal community shows Gluck has significantly less experience taking cases to Hawaii’s appellate courts than every other applicant sent to Ige.
Jacquie Esser, a deputy public defender who supports Gluck, says she takes issue with that chart.
“The number of appeals filed is a measure of experience but can’t be looked at in a vacuum,” Esser said, adding that Gluck has other legal experience, including as a clerk for former Associate Justice James Duffy.
Gluck’s supporters on Tuesday highlighted his experience working on civil matters, like an ACLU lawsuit against the City and County of Honolulu over moving homeless people’s belongings. His supporters have also said that while trial experience is important, the ICA rarely holds oral arguments and tends to resolve legal matters through court filings.
Liza Ryan Gill, an anti-vaping activist, said she and others would like to see another candidate and a bench more representative of the population, but supported Gluck, noting his hard work and Ige’s preference for him.
Gluck said he struggled with how to address senators given the opposition to his nomination.
“I can only offer my service, myself, my experience, and my character,” Gluck said. “I cannot change who I am. I cannot change where I was born. All I can control are my actions. I’ve spent 18 years doing all I can to serve these islands. I love this place fiercely and deeply. This is my home. This is my family’s home. I was not born here, but I want to be buried here.”
Gluck declined to answer questions about his nomination in the context of diversity on the Hawaii bench, saying that he could not comment on the governor’s decisions since he is the nominee.
Even if the Senate rejects Gluck’s nomination, he still has a shot at getting a judgeship.
He said he applied for and has an interview with the JSC for a seat on the state First Circuit Court.
In a statement, Ige said that he respects the Senate’s confirmation process and expects that Gluck’s “strong record as a civil rights advocate will be considered during the Senate’s proceedings.”
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell