Circuit Court Says Governor Must Release Judicial Nominee Names

Posted on Nov 18, 2011 in What's New

Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto orally ruled on November 14, 2011, that the Uniform Information Practices Act (“UIPA”) requires Governor Neil Abercrombie to disclose the names of the judicial nominees who were not selected for appointment to the Hawaii Supreme Court. Until Judge Sakamoto’s written decision is filed, the Attorney General has not decided whether it will appeal the ruling.

Although Judge Sakamoto’s rationale is not yet available, it appears that his reported conclusion is consistent with OIP’s conclusion in Opinion No. 03-03. In that 2003 opinion, OIP had concluded that the UIPA did not require the Governor to disclose the list of nominees prior to Senate confirmation because the judicial appointment process could be frustrated by political maneuvering and manipulation, but stated in footnote 9 “that the ‘frustration’ exception no longer applies to a List of Nominees maintained by the appointing authority after Senate confirmation” (emphasis added) because “there is no conceivable scenario in which disclosure [at that time] would frustrate the appointing authority’s ability to make an appointment.”

Because this issue was addressed in an existing opinion, OIP declined media requests to divert its small staff resources to render another advisory opinion on the same issue that would ultimately be appealed and subjected to de novo judicial review. Instead, as OIP recommended, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser exercised its right to obtain expedited judicial review of the denial of its request for the judicial nominee list.

Rather than being tied up in one case that should be decided by the courts, OIP has been efficiently using its limited resources to address matters of equal importance to other members of the public and government agencies and has been creating new, proactive materials, such as continuing legal education courses, on-line video training, and agenda guidelines and workshops.

About one-half of the spaces are still available for Sunshine boards to sign up for theWorkshop Wednesdays (see below) to learn how to prepare meeting agendas and minutes, which begin on November 30. To register, please contact Dawn Shimabukuro at (808) 586-1400 or e-mail oip@hawaii.gov.