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Governor to make 3rd appointment to high court

January 28, 2014 - 9:39pm

HONOLULU — Gov. Neil Abercrombie is set to make his third appointment to the Hawaii Supreme Court, making him the first governor in about two decades to select a majority of the five-member court.

Abercrombie will draw from a list of six nominees selected by the Judicial Selection Commission. The nominees, announced Monday, were chosen from 16 applicants.

They are: Circuit judges Derrick Chan, Richard Perkins and Michael Wilson; State Public Defender John Tonaki; Intermediate Court of Appeals Chief Judge Craig Nakamura; and Honolulu consumer practice attorney Jeffrey Crabtree.

One of them will replace Associate Justice Simeon Acoba Jr., who is retiring in March when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70. Appointed by former Gov. Ben Cayetano in 2000, Acoba has a reputation for being the high court’s most liberal member.

A constitutional amendment that will be on the election ballot this year asks voters whether the mandatory retirement age should be increased to 80.

The 10-year appointment makes Abercrombie the first governor since John Waihee to choose a majority of the five-member court, ensuring a lasting judicial legacy because the current justices’ terms don’t expire until the 2020s, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday. Waihee was governor from 1986 to 1994.

Abercrombie’s previous appointments were Sabrina McKenna and Richard Pollack.

The seat carries an