BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – U.S. District Court Judge David Alan Ezra, the longest serving active federal judge in Hawaii’s history, took senior status as of June 27 when he turned 65 years old, but he has no intention of slowing his pace.
In January, Ezra will move to a southwest border state (for security purposes, his location will not be disclosed) to oversee cases there.
Judges along the southwest border are overwhelmed with as many as 1,000 cases each year, making it challenging to give a speedy trial to alleged criminals as is required under the U.S. Constitution or to hear civil cases within a reasonable period of time.
In his new position, Ezra will increase his case load by as much as four times and he will be at 130 percent capacity.
“I will have a much heavier case load than I do here,” Ezra said, referring to his judgeship in Hawaii. “I will not have a relaxing senior retirement by any stretch of the imagination.”
The transfer was approved by the chief judges of the Fifth and Ninth Circuit Courts and the chief justice of the United States.
In Hawaii, there are four district judges and two others on senior status. There are substantially fewer cases in the islands when compared to mainland jurisdictions.
As the backlog of cases in the mainland has increased, Congress has not added judges in those districts further compounding the problem, Ezra said.
Congress needs to pass a judgeship bill, Ezra said.
Ezra grew up in Hawaii, graduated from St. Louis School, and attended Chaminade College and the University of Hawaii, and received a B.B.A. degree Magna Cum Laude from St. Mary’s University. At St. Mary’s University Law School he graduated first in his class before enlisting in the military. For seven years, he served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. For four years, Ezra worked as a partner in the firm of Anthony, Hoddick, Reinwald & O’Connor in 1976, focusing on construction litigation, and in 1980, he formed his own law firm, Ezra, O’Connor, Moon & Tam.
In 1988, Ezra was named by then President Ronald Reagan as the youngest federal judge in Hawaii’s history. Over the years, with the permission of Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit and the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, he worked in several other districts throughout the country. Many young lawyers have mentored under Ezra through his lecture status at the University of Hawaii, which he has maintained since 1978 teaching courses in Legal Remedies and Federal Courts.
Ezra is the Vice President of the U.S. Federal Judges Association. According to his biography on the University of Hawaii law school web site, he is a past member of several organizations including the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit; the Executive Committee of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference; the Judicial Conference Committee on Administration of the Bankruptcy System; the Court-Council Committee on Bankruptcy Appointments; the Board of Trustees of St. Louis High School; the Evaluation Committee of the Ninth Circuit; the Pacific Islands Committee of the Ninth Circuit and the Board of Directors of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society.
Over more than two decades, Ezra had many firsts for Hawaii including being the first from Hawaii to serve as President of the Ninth Circuit U.S. District Judges Association and the only Hawaii judge to be elected a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States. He was awarded the Rosewood Gavel Award in 2007.
U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Dan Akaka, D-Hawaii, established a 9-member commission to select a replacement for Ezra, which included Attorney Larry Okinaga as chair and Bennette Misalucha Evangelista, Lynn Fallin, Allen Hoe, Donavan Kealoha, Janice Kim, Marie Milks (retired judge), Jeff Sia and Tony Takitani as committee members.
Three candidates were selected as finalists including Derrick Watson, who heads the Civil Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Hawaii; Milton Yasunaga, a private attorney with the Cades Schutte law firm; and Andrew Winer, a Democrat political strategist and attorney.
“I have worked hard here over the years and I hope I will leave something of a legacy,” Ezra said.