BY JIM DOOLEY – State Senator Clayton Hee on Tuesday questioned prospective Maui Circuit Judge Peter Cahill’s legal background and philosophy at the capitol.
A private attorney on Maui, Cahill has little experience in criminal, family and constitutional law cases, spending his career handling civil matters.
Hee (D-Kahaluu), chairman of the Senate Judiciary & Labor Committee, expressed concerns about Cahill’s narrow range of legal experience.
“This particular individual appears to have a vacuum in three or four areas,” Hee told Carol Muranaka, head of the Hawaii Bar Association.
The Association told Hee in written testimony that it found Cahill qualified to serve as a Circuit Court judge and Muranaka repeated that support under questioning from Hee.
“There are 30 years of experience for this person, there are 30 years of legal knowledge and ability that he’s accumulated,” Muanaka said.
“ Even if you say that a person has only a criminal background or a civil background, you cannot just sort of erase all of the other things that go into that experience,” Muranaka said.
Cahill said he has not tried a criminal or family law case in Hawaii but expressed confidence in his abilities to learn and to rule in such cases.
“I can commit to you that I would work hard, I would do all the research necessary to familiarize myself with the law,” he said.
Governor Neil Abercrombie initially selected Cahill for the Maui post but then withdrew the appointment after acknowledging it was made two days after the constitutional deadline for selection.
The state Judicial Selection Commission then picked Cahill for the job.
Abercrombie’s deputy chief of staff, Blake Oshiro, told senators today that “the governor was extremely torn when it came to the candidates.”
Abercrombie met with them June 6 and “every day I would keep reminding him that we need to make a selection and he said he still hadn’t decided. He found all of the candidates to be extremely superb.”
Abercrombie found in Cahill “an intellectual analysis and discussion that he felt was appropriate for a judgeship,” Oshiro said.
Hee asked Oshiro if Cahill’s lack of experience in criminal, family and constitutional law cases “is a concern to the governor.”
Oshiro said, “I think that if that were to be the finding of the Senate then that would be a concern to him. I think the governor does feel that because Mr. Cahill has a strong quest for knowledge…that is why the governor at this point is not concerned about any particular lack of specific experience.”
The 5-member Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee will vote Thursday on the nominations of both Cahill and Supreme Court nominee Richard Pollack.
This Friday, the entire Senate will vote on the two appointments.