LIHUE — The Garden Isle has a new district court judge.
Michael Soong was sworn into office on Jan. 3. He replaces Trudy Senda, who retired in December.
Soong, who has been practicing law in Hawaii for over 30 years, said he couldn’t help but feel a little anxious when Hawaii Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald appointed him to take Senda’s place.
“I knew I would have big shoes to fill,” he said. “Judge Senda had more than 13 years of experience as a district court judge.”
Recktenwald appointed Soong to serve as judge for the District Court of the Fifth Circuit on Sept. 2, and Soong was confirmed by the Hawaii State Senate 12 days later.
“I was fortunate that there was a three-month period between my appointment and when I was sworn in,” Soong said. “Judge Senda did a lot of work and training with me to prepare me to fill her position.”
Now, a month later, Soong said he’s settling into the position, which is a 6-year term.
“It has been a great experience so far. It’s very challenging, but also very rewarding,” he said. “District court is a high volume court so it requires a lot of preparation and research before you actually sit on the daily calendar.”
While Soong said he doesn’t plan to make initial changes to how district court is run, he wants to extend some of the programs offered through the court system.
“I would like to see if there are other programs that have worked in other jurisdictions, and bring them to Kauai,” he said.
Soong, a graduate of Southwestern University School of Law, in Los Angeles, was admitted to the Hawaii State Bar in 1986. During his time as a lawyer, Soong served as deputy corporation counsel for the County of Hawaii, a deputy public defender and deputy prosecuting attorney for the County of Kauai and was an associate attorney with the Law Office of Walton D.Y. Hon, which focused on real estate transactions and land use.
Additionally, Soong served two terms as prosecuting attorney for the County of Kauai, from 1996 to 2004.
He also practiced criminal law and personal injury litigation, both as a partner in the law firm of Soong & Feldhacker, A.A.L and as a solo practitioner.
He serves as a board member of the Friends of the Kauai Drug Court, and is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
But Soong said his goal was always to become a judge.
“I think every young lawyer aspires to become a judge. More so, growing up with a father who served as a judge provided a positive role model,” he said. “I’m very fortunate, however, for the many years of prosecution and defense work I’ve done to allow me to be better prepared for this position.”
For up-and-coming law students who want to make it in the field of law, Soong’s advice is simple.
“Work hard, treat people fairly, be honest and have integrity in your word,” he said. “Especially as an attorney, your reputation for honesty and integrity will define you.”