Hawaii: stage set for new attempts to change merit/commission selection of judges in state; focus appears to be on reconfirmation by Senate

Last year I noted a flurry of activity in Hawaii in the area of judicial selection. 2017 looks to be picking up where 2016 left off.

Hawaii’s current system is made up of 2 elements:

  • Election for initial terms: Currently a list of nominees is sent by the Judicial Selection Commission to the governor (supreme court, intermediate appellate court, circuit court) or chief justice (district court) to select from. After a nominee is chosen he or she is subject to senate confirmation.
  • Additional terms: Currently judges seeking to remain in office go back before the Judicial Selection Commission for evaluation and re-approval; neither the governor nor the chief justice nor the senate is involved.

HB 1 / SB 673 Provides that the Senate must reconfirm any judge or justice for additional terms. In addition, it would change the default deadlines for confirmation; currently there is a default approval if the senate fails to act for the state’s higher courts (supreme, intermediate appellate, circuit) but default rejection for the lowest court (district). HB 1 also gives the legislature more time (90 days, up from 30) to consider confirmations.

SB 328 Provides that the Senate must reconfirm any judge or justice for additional terms.