Senate committee approves Supreme Court pick

Sabrina McKenna
Sabrina McKenna

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a crowded meeting room in the chamber of the State Capitol, judge Sabrina McKenna made her case for joining the Hawaii Supreme Court.

"I believe that I can hit the ground running and make a positive contribution," she said.

Support swamped opposition -- 96 testimonies out of 101 endorsed her to be the next associate justice.

"I believe she has the professional experience, integrity, diligence, legal knowledge and ability to be an excellent supreme court justice," said attorney Wil Yamamoto, who also was a law clerk for McKenna.

The most heartfelt praise came from a woman whose daughter was murdered. McKenna presided over a proceeding in family court. She listened as the woman's friend read a letter.

"She has helped our family begin to heal and believe that there is justice and fairness in the world, a world that turned upside down and inside out," Malia Espinda said.

When he announced McKenna was his pick to fill a vacancy on the five-member court, Gov. Neil Abercrombie touted her experience.

She cited her resume to the Senate committee.

"I have experience as a litigator, a law professor, as a trial judge on all levels of the trial courts, handling all kinds of cases," McKenna said.

"No case is too small for the people that are involved in it," state public defender Jack Tonaki said. "I think that she will bring this to the Supreme Court."

After ninety minutes of testimony the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5 to 0 to recommend McKenna's nomination to the full Senate.

Afterwards, she talked about being the one in the hot seat.

"It's a good experience. It makes me better appreciate how witnesses and parties feel when they come to my courtroom," she said.

The Senate is likely to confirm McKenna some time next week. Then her next courtroom will be in Hawaii's highest court.

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