Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors is President Joe Biden’s choice to be the next U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii.

If confirmed by the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate, Connors’ appointment would leave Gov. David Ige searching for his fourth attorney general during his time in office. His second and final term ends in December 2022.

Connors’ nomination was recommended to the president by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, both Democrats, who called Connors “exceptionally well-qualified” for the position.

Attorney General Clare Connors announces suspension of Keith Kaneshiro.
Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors in 2019 when she asked the Hawaii State Supreme Court to immediately suspend Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro. She is now President Biden’s nominee to serve as U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

“With her strong background in public service and her proven commitment to justice, we are confident she will serve the people of Hawaii well,” the senators said in a press release Tuesday. “We were proud to recommend her to the President, and we look forward to working with our colleagues to ensure a speedy confirmation process.”

In a statement, Ige said, “Clare Connors has been an outstanding Attorney General for the State of Hawaii and a key advisor on my team. I am pleased that President Biden has appointed her to be the U.S. Attorney. She will continue to serve as the state Attorney General during the federal confirmation process, which can be a lengthy one. During that time, we will continue working together for the people of the State of Hawaii.”

Gary Yamashiroya, special assistant to the attorney general, emailed this statement: “AG Connors appreciates the honor conferred by President Biden’s nomination, and the opportunity to continue to serve the people of our State. She is fully committed to serving as Attorney General pending the outcome of the confirmation process.”

Connors would succeed Judith Philips, the acting U.S. attorney general who assumed the office following the resignation of Kenji Price on Feb.  21.

Price, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, led headline-grabbing investigations involving organized crime, public corruption and police misconduct.

Connors, 47, is a Harvard Law School graduate and a former trial attorney with the Honolulu law firm Davis Levin Livingston. She began her legal career in Hawaii as a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra and was an assistant U.S. attorney from 2004 to March 2011.

In January 2019, Ige named Connors to replace Russell Suzuki, the deputy AG who had held the position since February 2018. Suzuki also served as attorney general from December 2014 to March 2015, when Ige was searching for a replacement for David Louie, whose term expired after Ige defeated Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2014.

Doug Chin, Ige’s AG for most of his first term, later served as lieutenant governor before making an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2018.

Upon assuming office in February 2019, Connors asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to suspend Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro’s law license and temporarily remove him from office.

Kaneshiro, who is still involved in a years-long federal investigation into public corruption and abuse of power allegedly linked to the Kealohas, instead took a leave of absence. He was succeeded in January by Steve Alm, a former judge.

During the Ige administration, Connors has been involved in legal battles over Mauna Kea, where protests have halted the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

She has also opposed the release of some inmates from Hawaii correctional facilities. The releases were intended to limit the spread of Covid-19.

As AG she set up a special unit designed in large part to investigate public corruption and she hired a number of her former colleagues from the U.S. attorney’s office to work at the AG’s office.

Connors also oversaw the AG’s office as it participated in the Honolulu rail investigation.

Like her predecessor Chin, Connors has frequently joined other Democratic attorneys general in opposing Trump administration policies on issues such as abortion and immigration.

The mission of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Hawaii, is to “investigate and prosecute federal crimes and defend the interests” of the United States in civil litigation “in a manner that is just and consistent” with the priorities established by the attorney general of the United States, according to the Justice Department’s website.

Reporters Nick Grube and Kevin Dayton contributed to this article.

Help Power Local, Nonprofit News.

Across the nation and in Hawaii, news organizations are downsizing and closing their doors due to the ever-rising costs of keeping local journalism alive and well.

While Civil Beat has grown year over year, still only 1% of our readers are donors, and we need your help now more than ever.

Make a gift today of any amount, and your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,500, thanks to a generous group of Civil Beat donors.

About the Author