ATTORNEY GENERAL ISSUES STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO JUDICIAL SELECTION COMMISSION RULES CHANGE
News Release from Office of Hawaii Attorney General November 17, 2011
HONOLULU – In response to the recent decision by the Judicial Selection Commission to amend its rules to authorize release of the names of candidates for judicial office, announced on November 16, Attorney General David Louie issued the following statement:
"We recognize the right of the Judicial Selection Commission to change its rules and decide upon its own authority whether to publicize the names on the list. But this does not change the holding in the Pray vs. Judicial Selection Commission case that provided the Governor with discretion to release the names, contrary to Judge Sakamoto's ruling against the State in the recent case filed by the Star-Advertiser. Until we have had the opportunity to review and evaluate the written decision issued by Judge Sakamoto, no decision has been made on whether we will pursue further legal review in the Star-Advertiser's case.
"With respect to releasing the names of future nominees, if the Commission publicizes the names of final judicial candidates when they provide those names to the Governor, the practical effect moving forward is that the names are available to the public regardless of who releases them. This does not necessarily mean, however, that an appeal will not be taken in the present case, which was decided prior to the Judicial Selection Commission's rule change."
The amendment to the Judicial Selection Commission rules became effective on November 15, 2011, and can be found on its website at: http://www.courts.state.hi.us/courts/judicial_selection_commission.html
JSC Rule Change -- JUDICIAL SELECTION COMMISSION PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 16, 2011
Following the election of its new Chair, Susan Ichinose, in June 2011, the Judicial Selection Commission (“JSC”) has held a series of meetings to discuss and review all of its rules and procedures. Such a regular review and updating is required by existing JSC Rule 6.C.
The JSC is governed by Article IV of the State Constitution which requires that all of its “deliberations” be confidential. Within that constraint, the JSC is committed to increasing the transparency of its activities to the extent permitted by the law and consistent with its goal of choosing the best possible nominees from the broadest and most diverse pool of candidates it can obtain.
Until now, JSC rules have prohibited the JSC from sharing statistical information about its processes, such as the general information about the total number of applicants or the breakdown of applicants and nominees by gender, experience or other attributes that may be of interest to the public, or information about trends such as increases or decreases in the number of applicants. Since the rules were first adopted in 1979, they have prohibited the JSC from disclosing its main work product – the names of the nominees on the lists presented to the Governor and Chief Justice as appointing authorities.
The Commission’s review and research over the past six months have determined that the above restrictions are broader than the State Constitution requires, and the policies that may have been served by the more restrictive rules when they were adopted decades ago have given way to new policies and priorities. Accordingly, the JSC has, effective November 15, 2011, amended its Rules to remove the above noted restrictions.
Under its revised Rules, the JSC will now release the names of the nominees transmitted to the Governor or Chief Justice at the time they are transmitted and will be permitted to disclose statistical and historical information that summarizes patterns and trends in judicial selection. The JSC will continue to keep confidential information it receives pertaining to individual applicants and petitioners for retention, and information pertaining to communications among and votes by Commissioners, as it has concluded that such information falls within the “deliberations” that the Hawaiʻi Constitution requires to be confidential.
However, the JSC believes that the judicial selection process will be strengthened by the new rules because the work product of the JSC will now be more easily accessible and more readily evaluated by the public.
A copy of the rules, as revised, is attached: Press Release Announcement - JSC Rule Change (Release Date: November 16, 2011)