Judicial Nominee Nakasone Receives High Praise

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Deputy Public Defender Karen Tooko Nakasone

Unanimous support was delivered today to a state Senate committee for career public defender Karen Nakasone to serve as a state Circuit Court judge.

Nakasone, 41, cried briefly as she described the sacrifices her parents made to provide their children with education opportunities.


Nakasone said her mother, an Okinawan immigrant, and her father, a Kauai plantation worker, operated a Fort Street Mall flower shop “12 hours a day, 364 days a year” to give their children better lives. The shop was only closed on New Year’s Day.

Nakasone testified before the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, which will make a recommendation on her nomination to the full Senate when it meets in special session Wednesday and Thursday.

Among the testifiers expressing support for Nakasone were state Attorney General David Louie, state Public Defender Jack Tonaki and a variety of leaders from the legal and civil rights communities.

Louie praised Nakasone’s “judicial temperament and high intellect,” saying she would be  “a terrific jurist.”

Tonaki said Nakasone’s nomination to the bench “is a very proud moment for our office.”

Nakasone is “truly the best and brightest our office has to offer,” he said.

Nakasone is married and the mother of two daughters.

She has served in the Hawaii Public Defender’s Office since 1996, handling both trial and appellate work.

Nakasone received her undergraduate degree from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and her law degree from Boston University Law School.  She is a past president of the Japanese American Citizens League, Honolulu office.