Where was the vetting on Maui judge appointment?

Just a few days after Joseph Wildman asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie to withdraw his nomination to be a Circuit Court judge on Maui because of unresolved business problems, Abercrombie yesterday sent the Senate a new appointee for confirmation in Rhonda Iwalani Lai Loo.

Wildman, a longtime friend of Abercrombie’s and once his legislative aide, stepped down because of more than $140,000 in federal tax liens against his former Honolulu law firm, where he is still an officer.

An Abercrombie spokesperson told the Maui News that the governor’s office didn’t do any significant background check on Wildman, relying on the vetting of the Judicial Selection Commission, which gives the governor four to six candidates to choose from.

The selection panel obviously didn’t do much vetting either; the person who first told me about Wildman’s tax problem said it took him 10 minutes to find it online when he became curious about the candidate’s background.

The quickness in naming a replacement suggests the governor’s office didn’t do much vetting of Loo, either, although she’s a safer choice as an established District Court judge and former prosecutor.

The skimpy background check is troubling, and part of the problem goes back to Abercrombie’s unfortunate decision to discontinue his predecessor’s practice — and that of the last two chief justices in making lower court appointments — of releasing the lists of finalists and inviting public comment before making appointments.

If Abercrombie had put Wildman’s name and the other candidates out for comment, surely the tax issue would have been flagged and a lot of embarrassment would have been avoided for both the governor and the candidate.


When Abercrombie yesterday appointed Kaua‘i Councilman Derek Kawakami to finish the term of former state Rep. Hermina Morita, his office didn’t release but three names the Democratic Party gave him to choose from, but provided the list when asked.

The other two candidates were Neil Clendeninn, a doctor on the island’s North Shore and Kilauea Realtor Foster Ducker.

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2 Comments on “Where was the vetting on Maui judge appointment?”

  1. Michael Says:


    Is she hiding something that would take us to the lu? Brings question of reasonable doubt now to Takitani and Agaran who Wildman worked with in a Law Firm.

  2. el guapo Says:

    Shapiro, the horse is already dead.

    Besides, now you know that the Judicial Selection Committee is not doing enough background checks, which is troubling but is independent of Abercrombie’s decision to not release the short list. All that would have happened is that you would have found out sooner that the committee wasn’t doing a good job, and you already suspected that.

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