Judging judges could be more open process

Who’s judging Hawaii’s judges? The job goes partly to a banker, a

businesswoman, a university dean and several retirees, among

others.

They’ve been appointed by Chief Justice Ronald Moon of the State

Judiciary to help counsel judges on their courtroom work, as recorded in

performance evaluations of Hawaii’s 11 circuit court judges. Eighteen more

judges in family and district courts will be evaluated in the same way this

year.

Whether individual judges are performing badly or not won’t

necessarily become public knowledge, however. Moon plans to keep the scores of

the judges confidential. He believes public disclosure could compromise

judicial independence and attitudes if judges become concerned over their

ranking and popularity.

To help him evaluate the judges, Moon has appointed

nine “respected persons in the community” from a list of nominees provided by

the Judicial Performance Committee. The appointees are Robert Alm, executive

vice president of First Hawaiian Bank; Momi Cazimero, owner of Graphic House;

Lawrence Foster, dean, and Eric Yamamoto, professor, both of University of

Hawaii’s Richardson School of Law; Lynne Kaneshiro, president of Island Title

Corp.; retired Family Court judges Douglas McNish and Betty Vitousek; Wilson

Moore, a retired lawyer; and Herbert Shimabukuro, a retired Circuit Court

judge.

The appointees surely will take their tasks seriously and lend

whatever wisdom and counsel they can to the current judges. But the committee’s

goal, as stated by Moon, of promoting “public trust and confidence in the

courts” seems at least slightly compromised by lack of disclosure of judges’

evaluations.

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