Senate committee says no to Judge Leonard

Judge Katherine Leonard
Judge Katherine Leonard
Sen. Brian Taniguchi
Sen. Brian Taniguchi

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With her son by her side, Judge Katherine Leonard watched senators argue for and against nominating her as Hawaii's next Chief Justice.

"This justice is not beholding to any individual, group or special interest. And for some people that may be unsettling," said Sen. Sam Slom (R-Hawaii Kai, Aina Haina).

"Basically, the concerns raised bring in the question of judicial temperament and other issues which of course are critical for a chief justice," said Sen. Mike Gabbard (D-Makakilo, Kapolei).

If one senator's support was crucial it was that of the committee chairman.

But Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D-Manoa, Moiliili) voted thumb's down.

"I have serious doubts that this nominee can lead the judiciary at this point in her career," he said.

Historically, the senate president sides with the chair's recommendation.

Slom voted for Leonard.

Senators Dwight Takamine (D-Hilo, Hamakua), Clarence Nishihara (D-Waipahu, Pearl City), and Taniguchi voted against her.

Gabbard voted against her with reservations.

Taniguchi said his vote wasn't based on Leonard being a woman or along party lines..

"I don't consider this political in terms of democrat or republican. I look at it just in terms of how qualified the person is," he said.

"I'm very hopeful," Leonard said after the vote. "I believe I'm very qualified for this position."

Leonard has one last shot at Friday's full senate vote.

She will need to win a majority to become the first female to lead Hawaii's Supreme Court.

But senators said odds of that happening now are pretty slim.