Governor Lingle Nominates Katherine Leonard as Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court


HONOLULU – Governor Linda Lingle today nominated Intermediate Court of Appeals Associate Judge Katherine Grace Leonard to serve as Chief Justice of the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court.

If confirmed by the State Senate, she would succeed Chief Justice Ronald Moon to become Hawai‘i’s fifth Chief Justice since statehood.  Judge Leonard would be the first graduate of the University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law to be appointed to the Supreme Court and the first woman in Hawai‘i’s history to be named Chief Justice.  She would be the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court.  Ms. Leonard would also be among 22 women nationwide who currently serve as chief justice of a state supreme court.  She would serve an initial 10-year term as the head of the State’s highest court and top administrator of the Hawai‘i Judiciary.

“Nominating the next Chief Justice of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court is a responsibility and privilege I have thought deeply about over the last 30 days,” said Governor Lingle.  “I have chosen a person of great character and strong intellect, who possesses effective writing skills and a true commitment to the rule of law.  Kate Leonard is a woman of character of whom her family, colleagues, and friends are justifiably proud.  She will be a Chief Justice of whom I and all of us Hawai‘i will become proud.  I have every confidence that she will preside over the state’s highest court with principled leadership, independence and the highest level of integrity, fairness and compassion,” Governor Lingle added.

Ms. Leonard, who turns 51 next month, joined the Intermediate Court of Appeals after Governor Lingle nominated her in November 2007 to fill a vacancy created by the death of Associate Judge John Lim.  She was confirmed unanimously (23-0) by the Senate and took her seat in January 2008.

Prior to becoming a judge, Ms. Leonard was a partner with the law office of Carlsmith Ball LLP (1992-2007) where she concentrated on civil litigation, including commercial, trust, and environmental law.  Ms. Leonard advised and represented clients in complex litigation and arbitration matters, which included real property, commercial lending, contested trust-related matters, and tax appeal issues.  Her clients included lending institutions, trustees of large trusts, and large and small businesses with commercial disputes.

She is a 1991 graduate of the University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law, where she served as editor-in-chief of the U.H. Law Review.  She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin, Parkside (1982).

Following graduation from U.H., Ms. Leonard served as a law clerk for former Supreme Court Justice Robert Klein.  She also served as a law clerk at the First Circuit Court.

Judge Leonard is a member of the American Judicature Society, an independent, nonpartisan national organization that works to maintain the independence and integrity of the courts and increase public understanding of the justice system.  She also participates in the American Bar Association Appellate Judges Conference.  She is a member of the American Bar Association and the Hawai‘i State Bar Association.

Judge Leonard is active in scouting, was an AYSO (American Youth Soccer Association) coach, and has volunteered with the Honolulu Orchid Society.

She is married to Ian Sandison and has one son and two stepchildren.

“I am honored and humbled by this appointment and believe I have the capacity, strength and commitment to handle this prestigious position,” Judge Leonard stated.

Governor Lingle selected Judge Leonard from a list of six candidates that was submitted to her by the Judicial Selection Commission on June 23, 2010.  All six candidates were interviewed by Governor Lingle, as well as a committee made up of members of the Governor’s senior staff.  The Governor also invited the public to submit comments on the six candidates.

“The input we received from the legal community and the general public on each of the six candidates was extremely helpful in our evaluation process,” said Governor Lingle.  “I appreciate the time and thought people put into sharing their views on the candidates, which helped me gain a better understanding of their qualifications and character.”

According to the Hawai‘i State Constitution, the Senate has 30 days to confirm or reject the nomination.  If the Senate fails to reject the nominee within 30 days, it shall be deemed to have given its consent to the Governor’s appointment of Judge Leonard.

During her term in office, Governor Lingle has named three of five justices to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, five of six judges to the Intermediate Court of Appeals, and 17 of 33 judges to the Circuit Court.

Submitted by the Governor’s office