Masuoka named state ‘Jurist of the Year’

Fifth Circuit Chief Judge George M. Masuoka, rumored to be mulling retirement now that the move from the old courthouse into the new court-house by state Department of the Judiciary Kaua’i employees is complete, was recognized Friday in Honolulu as the 2005 “Jurist of the Year.”

A jurist is a person skilled in the law, especially an eminent judge, lawyer, or legal scholar, according to “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.”

The recognition ceremony took place in the state Supreme Court courtroom, with Chief Justice Ronald Moon presiding.

The Jurist of the Year award recognizes a full-time trial judge for his or her administration of justice, judicial competence as evidenced by decisional quality, significant extra-judicial contributions to the administration of justice, and active participation in the community, according to a Judiciary spokesperson.

Moon selected Masuoka after looking at nominations made by Hawai’i attorneys and Judiciary employees.

Masuoka coordinated the acquisition of funding and construction of the Kaua’i judiciary complex, along Kapule Highway in Lihu’e, which opened to the public in August.

He is often called upon to speak at Kauai Bar Association events, and at other activities, his nominators said.

Known for his legal knowledge, sound judgment and strong work ethic, Masuoka, of Kapa’a, is a respected public figure often called upon to speak at school graduations and other ceremonies, and preside over swearing-in ceremonies of members of boards of community and professional organizations.

Masuoka began his career in 1979 as a perdiem judge on Kaua’i.

He was appointed as a Circuit Court judge in 1988, and became chief judge of the Fifth Circuit in 2000.

He oversees the circuit, family and district courts.

At the same ceremony at Ali’iolani Hale, Moon also recognized individual employees and members of teams from the Judiciary for outstanding contributions to the court system.

A Group Meritorious Service award for superior contributions went to the team implementing a high-tech computer system for managing traffic-related cases statewide.

This first portion of the Judiciary Information Management System is set to “go live” next month.

When the entire system is phased in over the next few years, it will unify all the state’s appellate, circuit, family and district courts through a single database, and thus facilitate online sharing of information, the Judiciary spokesperson said.

The team members receiving the award include Wanda Shimizu and Vera Tabe of the Fifth Circuit (Kaua’i).

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