Senate Vacancies, And Why Governors Must Pick Temporary Appointees Chosen By Political Parties

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Daniel K. Inouye

BY ROBERT THOMAS – Earlier, we wrote about what Hawaii law requires when one of its U.S. Senate seats becomes vacant: the remainder of the term is eventually filled by the vote of the people, but unitl the election is held, the Governor makes a temporary appointment to fill the seat and must appoint from a list provided by the political party of the Senator who caused the vacancy.

But how did Hawaii’s statute — a minority rule, but not a complete outlier — come to be? And is a rule that cabins a governor’s discretion by limiting the picks for a temporary appointee to those selected by a political party even constitutional, or democratic? (For more on the latter issue — do the Hawaii Democratic Party’s rules allow for a transparent selection process — see here.)


In “Senate Vacancies, And Why Governors Must Pick Temporary Appointees Chosen By Political Parties,” my colleague Mark Murakamiand I explore those questions.  Check it out if you are interested.



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Robert H. Thomas is one of the preeminent land use lawyers in Hawaii. He specializes in land use issues including regulatory takings, eminent domain, water rights, and voting rights cases. He has tried cases and appeals in Hawaii, California, and the federal courts. Robert received his LLM, with honors, from Columbia Law School where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, and his JD from the University of Hawaii School of Law where he served as editor of the Law Review. Robert taught law at the University of Santa Clara School of Law, and was an exam grader and screener for the California Committee of Bar Examiners. He currently serves as the Chair of the Condemnation Law Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section on State & Local Government Law. He is the Hawaii member of Owners’ Counsel of America, a national network of the most experienced eminent domain and property rights lawyers. Membership in OCA is by invitation only, and is limited to a single attorney from each state. Robert is also the Managing Attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation Hawaii Center, a non-profit legal foundation dedicated to protecting property rights and individual liberties. Reach him at He is also a frequent speaker on land use and eminent domain issues in Hawaii and nationwide. For a list of upcoming events and speaking engagements.