Abercrombie keeps attacking the public’s right to know

The saga of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s secrecy on the names of judicial candidates has taken a troubling new turn with his hand-picked director of the Office of Information Practices, Cheryl Kakazu Park, refusing to issue an opinion on whether state law allows the governor to keep secret the nominees given him by the Judicial Selection Commission.

Park said it’s a waste of time for OIP to become further involved because Abercrombie has said he’ll ignore any OIP opinion against him unless a court tells him he must abide.

Park’s “punt,” as one news story described it, isn’t surprising; her predecessor, Cathy Takase, was fired after ruling against Abercrombie with a letter reiterating a 2003 OIP ruling that the names must be released.

The troubling part is that the governor now has not only shut the public out of the process of selecting judges who wield great power over our lives, but has politicized the OIP in an unprecedented way that diminishes its credibility and relevance.

Former Gov. Linda Lingle released the Judicial Selection Commission’s list of candidates and invited public comment. Both former Chief Justice Ronald Moon and current Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald have followed suit. Former Gov. Ben Cayetano released the names at the end of the process.

Abercrombie claims publicizing nominees detracts from the quality of judicial applicants and that critics of his secrecy haven’t proved he’s wrong.

To the contrary, it’s the governor who hasn’t offered any evidence that secrecy is necessary. He says he’s “been told” that some lawyers don’t apply out of fear that their names will be disclosed, and a handful of lawyers have written public papers supporting him.

On the other side, the last two chief justices, the state Supreme Court as a whole and the Hawai‘i Chapter of the American Judicature Society have all studied the matter and concluded that secrecy doesn’t result in better judges — and certainly doesn’t override the public interest in an open and honest judicial selection process.

Former Chief Justice Moon said lawyers worried about their names being disclosed probably aren’t good candidates to be judges.

Abercrombie is reverting to practices last seen in the Waihee administration,  when when we not only didn’t get better judges, but saw a politically compromised selection process that contributed to the Bishop Estate corruption scandal.

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8 Comments on “Abercrombie keeps attacking the public’s right to know”

  1. zzzzzz Says:

    Perhaps Abercrombie is telling us all what he thinks of the current judiciary.

  2. Dave Smith Says:

    Unfortunately, this continues a trend first seen many years ago when Abercrombie was on the Honolulu City Council and attempted to push through a Sunshine Law exemption for that body similar to the one in place for the legislature. It was disturbing then and now. Hopefully he will heed public sentiment and see the light.

  3. Robert Says:

    doesn’t help that he’s appointed folks that gave $$$ to his campaign either. it basically stinks.

  4. Michael Says:

    Governor Abercrombie is not doing a lingle where she alone in her office cannot make a decision without the public voting on it. lingle was a Pontius Pilate. After her public veto she washed her hands clean. Her speech will always come back and haunt her.

    Isn’t that what a Governor does? I think Governor Abercrombie is trying to Govern.

    “a : to exercise continuous sovereign authority over; especially : to control and direct the making and administration of policy in
    b : to rule without sovereign power and usually without having the authority to determine basic policy.” Google

  5. zzzzzing Says:

    So…. what can we do about this, David? Anyone? It seems underhanded as hell, and we shouldn’t put up with this sort of nonsense.

  6. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Here’s one possible action to take: As a community group or a Neighborhood Board to hold a community forum on the issue & invite Abercrombie to take part in the discussion.

    Here’s another: Put together a petition addressed to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to hold a joint briefing during the Interim on the issue.

    Here’s a third: Although recall is not an option for the governor’s office under the current State Constitution, draft a petition to place it on the ballot in 2012. That will certainly send a message to Abercrombie.

    Has anyone actually written a letter to Da Gov expressing his/her concerns on this issue or have most of the efforts to express disagreement been spent on blogs such as this one?

    If you have written a letter, what sort of response did you get? Has anyone here tried to share your concern with Lt. Governor Brian Schatz or even with Amy Asselbaye, Abercrombie’s Chief of Staff?

    I can understand the frustration of dealing with him and his staff. Between the middle of December and last Friday, I tried to communicate with his staff – not department heads – 32 times on a variety of issues and did not get a single response other than ONE phone call in early April from someone in the Policy Office saying that he got my message but didn’t have the time to talk to me.

    Although I don’t have especially strong feelings on this issue, I would be more than willing to help put together some sort of action.

  7. David Shapiro Says:

    Cap, since you ask, I did attempt (in mild terms for me) to initiate a discussion on this general issue with somebody in the administration way back before anything was set in stone or written when I became concerned they were going to institute this policy. I was accused of “rushing to judgment,” and soon after the McKenna appointment came down with a declaration that the JSC list would no longer be released. As far as I know, no individual or organization that advocates for open government was given the opportunity to argue for the public’s interest in an open process before the policy was changed.

  8. Michael Says:

    Governor Abercrombie is doing what he can. He makes decisions and will assume blame if things go wrong. His lack of public transparency is saying, “Trust me. You voted for me, so let me try to do my job”. Seems only a few are bothered.

    Impressive was the vote to Stop the Lawsuit against Kamehameha High School not accepting Non-Native Hawaiians unless they came forth with Full Name and not be anonymous. That I believe is an ethical judgement.

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