LIHU‘E — Long-time Kaua’i public defender Stephanie Char was appointed as a District Family Court judge in the Fifth Circuit Court in a ceremony Thursday afternoon via Zoom.
When Char spoke at the ceremony, she admitted she didn’t know that robing up would be part of her induction.
“This piqued my interest as to why judges wear robes, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention I am not the first person in my family to wear a robe,” Char said during her induction ceremony.
“My husband bought a robe to become (an ordained minister) to officiate our friend’s wedding. Now, here I stand before you, 10 years post-high school education and 17 years of being a public defender, to be the second member in my family to wear a robe.”
Char continued to expound on the significance of wearing a robe, quoting former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Conner.
“This is a robe of a judge, and every judge wears a similar black robe, and it shows all judges that are engaged in upholding the constitution of the rule-of-law and have a common responsibility, especially during these times, to be flexible, innovative and persevere.”
Char’s road to this appointment has been in the making for years.
Char has been with the state Office of the Public Defender since 2003, and was named supervising deputy public defender in the Kaua‘i office in 2017.
Char is a graduate of the University of San Diego School of Law, and was admitted to the Hawai‘i State Bar in 2003. She earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and communications, and a master’s degree in philosophy, from the University of Denver.
Before Char’s appointment, she was active in the Kaua’i community. She currently serves on the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Board of Directors, and is a member of the Kaua’i Criminal Defense Bar.
Char also coaches youth soccer, and has been a member of the Kaua’i Economic Opportunity Advisory Board for Mediation Program.
The chief justice of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court appoints district court judges from a list of at least six nominees submitted by the Judicial Selection Commission. If confirmed by the state Senate, Char will serve a term of six years.
First Circuit Court Judge Matthew Viola was one of several members of the Hawai’i State Judiciary to congratulate Char on her accomplishments.
“It seems like, with the swearing-in ceremony, I am impressed with the quality of judges and willingness to serve the public,” Viola said via the YouTube ceremony.
“It’s not easy to make it to this point, and it’s a difficult process. This group of judges has set a high bar, exceeded personal and professional backgrounds, and has experience at the bench. This is a great group of judges.”