On Transparency In The Judicial Selection Process
by Robert Thomas, InverseCondemnation, November 19, 2014
Ian Lind has an interesting piece on Honolulu Civil Beat, Hawaii Monitor: Ballot Issue Grew Out of Abercrombie’s Retreat Into Secrecy, about the constitutional amendment, recently approved by Hawaii voters, which requires the Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission to make public its list of judicial nominees at the same time that it transmits the list to the governor. Under Hawaii law, the governor is required to appoint his or her selection to fill judgeships from this list.
In some ways, the constitutional amendment, which the voters ok'd by an overwhelming margin (82% of those voting) was icing on the cake: after a Hawaii circuit court ruled that under state public records laws, the governor must release JSC lists once he makes his appointment (a case in which we represented the plaintiff-newspaper), the JSC amended its rules to require it to disclose the list once it transmits it to the governor. The Civil Beat story has more details:
Attorney Robert Thomas, who represented Oahu Publications and the Star-Advertiser in the case, later commented: “By amending its rules to allow the public to know the names of the nominees at the same time a governor does, the JSC is acknowledging there are no good reasons to keep these lists secret once the Commission has concluded its deliberations, and that there are excellent public policy and empirical reasons for the public to have access to this information at the same time a governor does.”
The belt-and-suspenders approach doesn't hurt, we suppose, and we're heartened that the voters agreed that there's no good reason to keep the JSC lists secret, the same result as the lawsuit. More on the case here.