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LWV-Hawaii Legislative Testimony

SB 948 SD1

Proposing an Amendment to the Hawaii Constitution, to
Reduce the Number of Nominees for Judicial Vacancies.

House Committee on Judiciary (JUD) - chair: Waters, vice chair: Oshiro

Tuesday, March 20, 2007, 2:00 p.m. Conference Room 325

Testifier: Jean Aoki, Legislative Chair, LWV-Hawaii

Click here to view SB948 SD1

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii takes no position on the merits of SB 948, SD1 which would change the number of nominees to be selected by the Judicial Selection Commission from which the Governor and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would make their appointments to the bench.

We would like to offer some comments for your consideration. Before that, we would note that while the number of nominees is set at a firm three for the courts for which the Governor would make the appointments, the number of District Court nominees is set at not less than three. We wondered about the inconsistency.

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii has a strong position for the merit selection of judges and justices, and views the Judicial Selection Commission as one way of achieving this. We are aware that there are some concerns about the Commission and there is ongoing study and evaluation of the system by the professional organizations most concerned or involved in the selection process.

We also firmly believe that amendments to the constitution should not be taken lightly and should require a greater degree of difficulty in their adoption process. There should be ample justification for the proposed amendments.

Once the proposed amendments are adopted by the Legislature, besides whatever is printed in the explanation literature that goes out to all voters and included in the print media, the arguments pro and con are in the hands of the members of the public, Last year, the Legislature opted to leave out the pros and the cons. Our organization did make an attempt by sponsoring a forum on each of the proposed amendments on ‘Olelo, and did put the pros and cons generated by us on our website. However, we did not have the means to distribute hard copies which would have reached more people, nor even the resources to publicize the forums and our website to reach more of the people we needed to reach.

So, probably the most effective voice in the debate over these amendments was the television ads rejecting the proposed amendment eliminating the mandatory retirement of judges at age 70. That group had every right to advocate against the amendment, and they were able to raise the funds to do so using the most expensive and effective. medium I only bring it up to emphasize the important role the legislature plays in exercising its constitutional right to propose amendments to the constitution. That role should include the responsible dissemination of information that would truly educate the public on what the proposed amendments do, and the arguments for and against the amendments.

The justification, for example, for the proposed amendment in SB 948 SD1 leaves much to be desired. It may mean something to you, but to most of the public, it would probably be a blank “HUH?” or the campaign would turn into a partisan squabble.

We suggest that this committee take the time to do some research on whether this amendment would help achieve not only the goal cited but to help strengthen our judicial selection system over all. Thank you for this opportunity to comment on this bill.


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