Senate Judiciary Committee: Friendship Is Not Disqualification
Governor David Ige’s nominee for the Intermediate Court of Appeals faced members of the Senate today.
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
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
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
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.”
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.”
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.