Chair Hee, Vice-Chair Shimabukuro, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii strongly supports HB 420, H.D.1 which would amend our State Constitution to require the judicial selection commission to publicly disclose its lists of nominees for appointments to seats on our district and circuit courts, the intermediate appellate court and the supreme court, concurrently with its presentation of those lists to the governor or the chief justice.
When the League did our study of the Judiciary in 2002 and 2003, we focused a great deal of attention on the Judicial Selection Commission, because the public had really no or little input in the selection of our judges and justices in contrast to states where the judges and justices are elected. While we would oppose any attempts to select the members of our courts by election, we did believe and took the position that the names of the nominees for seats on the courts should be released by the Judicial Selection Commission. This would allow input by members of the public who knew one or more of the nominees to comment as to their qualifications, just as the voluntary release of the names of nominees started by then Governor Lingle and Chief Justice Moon made possible comments to them from the public.
We don’t believe there would be many comments by members of the lay public, but the open process would discourage the perception that there is any wrongdoing involved in the appointment of Judges and justices.
As for the applicants who are not picked, they were considered well qualified by the Judicial Selection Commission, but only one of the group can be appointed.
It was welcome news when the Judicial Selection Commission announced last year that henceforth, the names of all nominees to seats on the courts would be released at the times the names are sent to the Governor or Chief Justice. Increased sunshine in the process of selecting judges would increase public confidence in the Judiciary in general and in the individual judges and justices. To make this practice permanent, the proposed amendment should be presented to the public for ratification.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify on this very important constitutional amendment.