Governor Abercrombie
Governor Neil Abercrombie

BY JIM DOOLEY – Governor Neil Abercrombie and Attorney General David Louie have not given up the fight overGovernor Abercrombie secrecy in judicial nominations, despite the Judicial Selection Commission’s decision this week that the names of nominees will be opened to the public.

In a news release today, Louie’s office said it still may appeal a court ruling Monday that held the governor cannot withhold from the public the names of candidates he has considered for judicial appointments.

The ruling, from Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto, came after the Honolulu Star Advertiser sued Abercrombie for refusing to disclose lists of nominees supplied to him by the Judicial Selection Commission as potential appointees to the Circuit or Appellate courts.

The lawsuit appeared to have been mooted by the Judicial Selection Commission’s decision, announced Wednesday, to make the names public.

Abercrombie and Louie had no comment yesterday, but issued a news release today saying an appeal of the court ruling still may be filed.

The “practical effect” of the selection commission’s decision “is that the names are available to the public regardless of who releases them,” the release said.

“This does not necessarily mean, however, that an appeal will not be taken in the (court) case, which was decided prior to the Judicial Selection Commission’s rule change,” Louie’s office said.

At stake now are largely theoretical questions about gubernatorial authorities, as well as who will pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses expected to be billed by attorneys representing the Star Advertiser. If the newspaper prevails, the state is liable for the expenses. If the state is victorious, each side must pay its own legal bills.

Abercrombie’s decision to withhold names runs counter to past practices.

Governor Linda Lingle made the names public when she received them from the commission.

Governor Ben Cayetano released them after he made appointments.

Abercrombie decided to withhold the names altogether, saying disclosure was limiting the number of qualified candidates willing to apply for judicial appointments.

 

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com