Fall 2003 Home   Newsletters

Winter 2003

Summer 2004

President's Message (Maile Bay)
Openness in the Courts (Jackie Parnell)
Our Comprehensive (Full) Public Funding Bill 2004 (Grace Furukawa)
Public Funding of Presidential Primary and General Election
Where Has Our Democracy Gone? (Grace Furukawa)
Ray of Sunshine (Jean Aoki)
Local League News - Honolulu
Local League News - Hawaii (Lois Cecil)
Local League News - Kauai (Carol Bain)
What is the Act 190 Task Force and Who Cares? (Jaurene Judy)
NBC to Televise Democratic Presidential Primary Debate... LWVUS

Openness in the Courts

Maile Bay, Jean Aoki and Jackie Parnell represented the League at a Conference on Transparency in the Judicial System on November 7. (Unfortunately Jo Judy, who had represented League on the committee planning this conference, could not make it because of an accident.) It was an excellent conference focusing on three main issues: judicial comment on pending cases (should judges explain what they are doing?); access to court information (what should be confidential, what should be open to the public?); and openness in trial proceedings (role of the media). These issues had been the subject of a study by Ward Research, Inc. which conducted five different focus groups prior to the conference, composed of judges (1), attorneys (1), media (1) and general public (2). Not surprisingly, the perceptions of `openness' in the courts, both existing and desirable, varied widely among the groups.

The conference featured addresses by two highly-qualified judges from the mainland on the first two topics. The third speaker was Linda Deutsch, special correspondent for Associated Press who shared her experiences in covering many high-profile trials such as the Sirhan Sirhan trial, the O.J. Simpson trials, etc. Jerry Burris of The Honolulu Advertiser and Gerald Sekiya, Chair of the Hawaii Committee on Judicial Conduct provided comments, and all five speakers then responded to audience questions.

The majority of the attendees at the conference were judges. We all were assigned to tables at lunch time to discuss the issues further, each table focusing on one of the issues. The pre-assignment insured that there would be at least one member of the public, one representative of the media and one practicing attorney along with the judges. Again, as one might imagine, opinions varied.

The final session consisted of reports from all the discussion leaders. While consensus was not achieved, the judges appeared willing to accept more openness.

Of particular interest to us who have been involved in the study on judicial independence was the finding of Ward Research that the general public is not well informed on the judiciary. Some of the members of the focus groups were not even aware that the judiciary is a separate branch of government! It indicates that an education campaign on the role of the judiciary and the importance of judicial independence in Hawaii is definitely needed.

All the material related to the conference is in the League office. Please contact one of us if you would like to read it.

Jackie Parnell

Fall 2003 Home   Newsletters Summer 2004