HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday heard testimony on the nomination of Daniel Gluck, the executive director of the Hawaii Ethics Commission, to serve on the Intermediate Court of Appeals.
Critics have questioned Gov. David Ige’s choice of Gluck, a white man, for the job, noting it’s been 30 years since a Native Hawaiian was appointed to the appeals court and 20 since a Native Hawaiian was appointed to the Supreme Court.
Others have questioned his legal experience given he hasn't brought as many cases to trial as other potential nominees put forward by the state Judicial Selection Commission.
The committee didn't vote on the nomination. Judiciary Committee Chairman Karl Rhoads said the committee would vote on Wednesday.
Gluck's supporters noted his keen legal mind, his dedication to social justice and his fairness.
Lois Perrin, who used to work with Gluck at the the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, said he was even-headed and able to mediate disputes.
“I’ve seen him reading opinions and just trying to understand every facet of every argument, and to really get a handle on that. And I think that’s so important for somebody that’s going to be appointed to potentially to an appellate court position,” Perrin told the committee.
Kapua Sproat, a University of Hawaii law professor, said she objected to Gluck’s relative lack of professional and lived experience compared to others on the six-person list of candidates the commission gave Ige.
She said lived experience matters, citing the example of William S. Richardson, a Native Hawaiian who was Hawaii’s chief justice from 1966 to 1982. She said Richardson infused Hawaiian values and culture into Hawaii’s laws. She said that’s why Hawaii law protects public beaches and water flowing in streams and guarantees Native Hawaiians the right to practice their culture.
“You may hear criticisms of his jurisprudence as being provincial, but I call it culturally relevant,” she said of Richardson.
Several testified that they took issue with Ige selecting Gluck over three qualified Native Hawaiian women on the commission’s list.
Marti Townsend, the director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, said it’s a problem when the the governed and the governing don’t see themselves in each other.
“Nearly half of the governed in Hawaii do not see themselves in our justice system. This is a serious problem for the functioning of our democracy,” she said.
Zuri Aki, the public policy director for the Council on Native Hawaiian Advancement, said Native Hawaiians are overrepresented among those who are arrested, incarcerated and sentenced, even though they are not more likely to commit crimes.
“This correlates with the lack of Native Hawaiian representation among the judiciary,” he said.
Gluck and his defenders said he didn't go to trial as much as others considered for the position in part because many of the legal cases he was involved with at the ACLU and ethics commission were settled before trial.
Pankaj Bhanot, the former director of the state Department of Human Services, said there were “countless” examples of brilliant judicial minds serving on courts even without much trial experience, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
“I am baffled that we are so stuck on having trial experience, which is not the only criteria to practice law,” he said.
Under Hawaii law, the Judicial Selection Commission reviews and evaluates applications for all judicial vacancies. It selects qualified nominees by secret ballot. The governor selects nominees for the appeals and supreme courts from lists provided by the commission.