By: Press Release | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
HONOLULU – The Honolulu Star-Advertiser won an important court case for open records and transparent government earlier this week when circuit court judge Karl Sakamoto ruled that Hawaii’s governor, Neil Abercrombie, must publicly disclose the names of state judicial nominees.
“The public is entitled to information of this sort and we are pleased that the judge has agreed,” said Star-Advertiser vice president/editor Frank Bridgewater. “The more informed the public, and the more open our government, the better.”
For years, Hawaii’s governors had routinely disclosed the list of nominees provided for their consideration by the Judicial Selection Commission. However, Gov. Abercrombie ended the practice upon taking office and made his first judicial appointment, that of Sabrina McKenna to the State Supreme Court, without releasing the names of the others whom the Judicial Selection Commission had listed.
Despite numerous requests by the Star-Advertiser, Gov. Abercrombie continued to refuse to supply the names of nominees because he felt public scrutiny might deter candidates from applying to serve as state judges. In August, as a last resort, the newspaper filed a lawsuit against the governor seeking the names of candidates submitted to him by the Judicial Selection Commission. In the suit, the newspaper held that the governor’s decision was in violation of Hawaii’s open records law.
“Initially, we held off on taking legal action in hopes that the governor might rethink his position,” said Dennis Francis, publisher of the Star-Advertiser. “But in the end, it was clear that only a court order would provide the transparency that we believe the public deserves.”
According to the ruling, the state government failed to prove that withholding the names of judicial nominees was an acceptable exception to the open records law because public disclosure might discourage qualified candidates. The Attorney General’s office, which defended the governor’s decision, will decide what course to take after thoroughly reviewing the court’s written decision.
Oahu Publications, Inc. is the parent company of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Honolulu’s only daily newspaper and Hawai?i’s leading provider of in-depth, consistent and credible local news and information, as well as MidWeek, O‘ahu’s most widely distributed weekly publication. In addition, the company’s magazine division produces an expanding portfolio of publications including 101 Things to Do, Ahahui Koa Anuenue (AKA), Aulani, Fairmont Luana, Halekulani Living, HILuxury, Go Kailua, and Ola Grand Waikikian Life.