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Senate Judiciary Committee: Friendship Is Not Disqualification

PHS Yearbook

Governor David Ige’s nominee for the Intermediate Court of Appeals faced members of the Senate today.


Credit PHS Yearbook
David Ige, 1975, senior, Pearl City High School

Less than 2 years ago, Governor David Ige nominated then attorney Keith Hiraoka – a childhood friend – to serve as a judge on the State Circuit Court.  Hiraoka got that job and the Governor nominated Hiraoka again as an associate judge on the Intermediate Court of Appeals.  Hiraoka says the issues from 2018 have not changed.






“The elephant in the room then, as it is today, is my relationship with Governor Ige. I’d like to acknowledge that it’s a valid concern and perceptions do

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Keith Hiraoka, nominee for associate judge, Intermediate Court of Appeals

matter.  But, it’s my hope that the committee and the Senate will go beyond appearances and judge my ability to serve on the Court of Appeals based on my experience and my abilities.”


Attorney David Kimo Frankel testified in opposition of Hiraoka’s nomination based on case law and Hiraoka’s friendship with the state’s chief executive.


“Keith Hiraoka contributed in the previous election the maximum amount

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Attorney David Kimo Frankel

allowed by law to his very good friend David Ige.  But he was also the campaign manager.  And, so, I don’t think it’s appropriate for him to be hearing appeals regarding decisions made by the Ige administration, whether by the Governor himself or his appointees.  It’s just inappropriate.”


Former State Attorney General David Louie, a law firm partner with Hiraoka, says the Judicial Selection Commission developed the list of recommended

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
David Louie, former state Attorney General

nominees for the governor to pick from and that friendship should not be a disqualification.

“When a decision by Governor Ige is made and it came up to the appellate court, Mr. Hiraoka could and probably would, recuse himself.  That doesn’t mean that just because there might be a matter that might come up in the future that a judge would have to recuse himself that you disqualify that person from ever serving and making a contribution.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Senator Laura Thielen

Hiraoka said he applied previously for the Intermediate Court of Appeals but was not selected by Governor Ige.  But, Senators Donna Mercado-Kim and Laura Thielen expressed concern about Hiraoka only serving 15 months of his first term before applying for the Appellate Court.  They voted with reservations which count as yes votes.   Senator Thielen.


“I’m not concerned about the issues of the friendship with the Governor but I am concerned about the loss of the expertise at that level at too soon a stage.  So I feel I just need to be sending that signal to the various nominees and the Judicial Selection Commission.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Senate Judiciary Committee

Hiraoka’s nomination was approved by the Judiciary Committee and will be up for a vote by the full Senate Thursday morning.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.


Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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