Governor to make 3rd appointment to high court
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 annual salary that has been increased to $206,184. Some believe the raise is a reason more people applied this time. Seven people applied for a 2011 vacancy, while nine applied for a vacancy in 2012.
Of the 16 who applied this time, 14 were men and two were women, the commission said. They range in age from 41 to 50.
• Chan, 58, graduated from Kalani High School, the University of Hawaii and California Western School of Law.
• Crabtree, 59, was born in Maine and graduated from Punahou School, the University of San Francisco and New York University School of Law.
• Nakamura, 57, is a graduate of Iolani School, the University of Hawaii and Harvard Law School.
• Perkins, 63, is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, the University of Hawaii and the University of Southern California law school.
• Wilson, 60, graduated from Kailua High School, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Antioch School of Law.
• Tonaki, 53, graduated from Iolani School, the University of Hawaii and the Hastings College of Law.
Abercrombie has 30 days from Monday to make his selection, which is subject to state Senate approval.