CJ nominee Katherine Leonard faces the first blades

The knives are starting to come out on Gov. Linda Lingle’s nomination of Katherine Leonard to be new chief justice of the state Supreme Court, but so far the cuts have only been surface wounds.

Attorney Eric Seitz struck the first public blow with a letter to the Hawaii State Bar Association urging opposition when Leonard goes before the State Senate for confirmation. He said she’s ill-equipped for the job because of poor temperament, a lack of administrative experience and only two years of judicial experience on the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

The question is whether it’s just Seitz being Seitz or if there’s broad sentiment against Leonard in the legal community as he claims.

The 400-member Hawaii Women Lawyers jumped to her defense on all points raised by Seitz, as did one of her former law partners, Karl Kobayashi, who said she displayed a sharp legal mind and good administrative skills when he worked with her at Carlsmith Ball LLP.

The Bar Association found Leonard qualified when Lingle named her to the appeals court, and a key is whether the rating is repeated on the new appointment. A recommendation is expected before the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its hearing on the nomination next Tuesday.

Senators enjoy taking a scalp from a gubernatorial nominee now and then, but it will be difficult to do so on the first woman nominated for chief justice if the Bar Association rates her qualified and she presents herself well at the Senate hearing in answering critics such as Seitz.

I have further thoughts on Lingle and the Leonard nomination in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Judicial appointments will define Lingle’s legacy.”

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9 Comments on “CJ nominee Katherine Leonard faces the first blades”

  1. hawaii kai pundit Says:

    How can one judge be any worse than the other? This seems to be a “Seitz” problem. Poor temperment he says…maybe because she does not suffer fools or their absurd arguments.

    We have thousands of pages of law and the courts are closed on most Fridays anyway.

    Attorney’s should be “barred” from the lounge.

  2. hipoli Says:

    I hear through the Capitol bongos theres probably more to the Recktenwald story than just filling pukas, Dave.

  3. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    HIPOLI: Please elaborate. Back in the day when Recktenwald headed DCCA, I had several interactions with him which lasted anywhere from three weeks to close to three months but never had any problems in getting information or, for that matter, resolution of my initial inquiry.

    I’ve also run into him many times at various events and places here in Windward O`ahu since we first met back in early 2003, and he’s been very friendly and open. He even told me to go back to calling him Mark outside of the courthouse after I prefaced a comment with “Your Honor.” Frankly, I’m not that comfortable doing that, but maybe I will one of these days.

    Anyhow, please give us your take and then I’ll talk to a couple of regular staffers for theirs.

  4. Forward Observer Says:

    I must have missed something. Is there a consensus of opinion as to why Bennett did not even put his name in the hat for this one? In retrospect, could it be that Lingle already decided on Leonard even before the nominations were in?

  5. Michael Says:

    lingle can use a pen but can she defend herself with a knife. her decisions have been under a microscope as she says she makes decisions no other person would want to make. Also said she makes decisions that one in her office cannot make alone. Veto but let the public decide.

    Opposing President Obama in ideals she is also allowing a female in Supreme Court. Does this mean she is contrary to her thinking? Mary so.

    Is she filling a Dam with a plug that is not made for the puka? Eric says nutso but the Bar says she is. Was that during Happy Hour the approval was made? Next day they wake up with a hangover, thinking What have we done? Happens when one drinks. Bar closed!

  6. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    AG Bennett told me months ago as we were standing at the railing waiting for a hearing to start that he was going back into private practice and, in fact, was counting down the days!

    Although I didn’t talk to him about his reason for leaving government service, I assume that the principal reasons are financial & personal. He could make a lot more money as an attorney in private practce, be only accountable to his clients & staff, and maybe even be able to take some time without having to make excuses.

  7. jaded Says:

    @Forward Observer,

    Mark Bennett would never make it through the Senate’s confirmation hearings. His opinion on the Superferry fiasco sealed his fate.

  8. David Shapiro Says:

    Attorney Robert Thomas has an excellent analysis of issues in the Leonard appointment at his blog, inversecondemnation.com.

  9. shaftalley Says:

    lingle’s choice to be the new chief justice is politically driven and her lame-ducking is not trustworthy


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