EXCLUSIVE: Judge denied second term for 'erratic' and 'bizarre' behavior

EXCLUSIVE: Judge denied second term for "erratic" and "bizarre" behavior
Published: Mar. 21, 2014 at 9:04 PM HST
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Oahu Circuit Judge Patrick Border
Oahu Circuit Judge Patrick Border

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A controversial Circuit Court judge is losing his job after complaints from lawyers about his on-the-job performance, a rare case of a state judge not being reappointed.

Sources said the Judicial Selection Commission will not retain Oahu Circuit Judge Patrick Border for a second 10-year term when his term expires April 7.

Attorneys who declined to be identified describe him as "erratic," "unpredictable" and even "bizarre."

The judiciary moved Border from handling civil cases to a mixed calendar of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases in the last year or so.

Both prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers have complained about his behavior as a judge handling those misdemeanor criminal cases, where attorneys said sometimes he'd give out harsh sentences for minor crimes and minor sentences for more serious crimes.

"Lawyers on all sides want consistency," said one veteran attorney who's appeared in front of Border. "He was just all over the place and nobody knew what was going to happen."

Outside Border's locked, empty courtroom, Hawaii News Now found a sign that said due to unforeseen circumstances, proceedings scheduled for Monday have been rescheduled for next Tuesday.

Sources said that's because on Monday, Border abruptly canceled numerous trials that were set to be held this week.

First appointed to the court by former Governor Linda Lingle in 2004, Border made headlines two years later when he cited a man with contempt of court and put him in the court cell block for several hours for exclaiming "Thank you Jesus" after a jury found him not guilty of physically abusing his son.

There will be two circuit court vacancies soon, since Judge Michael Wilson will also leave his post within the next few weeks to become a Supreme Court justice after being confirmed by the Senate Monday.

A judiciary spokeswoman said it's still being decided how the two judges' cases will be handled in the short term. The remaining sitting 22 Circuit Court judges may have to take over some of their cases, some substitute judges may be "borrowed" from District Court or per-diem judges may be used to pick up some of the those caseloads, the spokeswoman said.

It will take roughly six to eight months to replace those judges, according to lawyers familiar with the judicial search and approval process.

The last time an Oahu Circuit Court judge was denied a second term was ten years ago, when Judge Sandra Simms, who was criticized for being soft on criminal defendants, was not retained.

Border did not return a phone call Hawaii News Now made to his chambers Wednesday.

Border might withdraw his application for re-appointment, instead of having his request for a second term rejected by the Judicial Selection Commission, a source said.

Before becoming a judge in 2004, Border spend twenty years at an attorney in the law firm Cronin, Fried, Sekiya, Kekina and Fairbanks.  Before that, he was a deputy corporation counsel and deputy prosecutor for the city of Honolulu and a deputy attorney general for the state of Hawaii.

Border earned his law degree from the University of Nebraska in 1974.

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