Governor Under Fire Over Judicial Selections

Neil Abercrombie | Photo by Andrew Wertheimer

As the process to fill vacancies on the Hawaii Supreme Court moves forward, Gov. Neil Abercrombie will not release the list of names of candidates he received from the Judicial Selection Commission. Though spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz cites confidentiality as key to “attracting prospective judicial applicants,” others say the move flies in the face of the theme of openness and transparency that Abercrombie stressed during his gubernatorial campaign.

Political reporter Richard Borrecca, who last month penned a piece highlighting Abercrombie’s social media savvy, today published an editorial with a different tone:

Abercrombie’s secretive start is cause of worry

Despite Abercrombie’s early fascination with social media, his communication with the public since his election has been mostly absent. When he was in Congress, there was little need to communicate except at election time, but now he has a job with bigger responsibilities. Abercrombie now is not a representative from Hawaii — he is the leader of the state and his obligation to open government has grown.

The decision to keep the names secret is a change in course from that of Abercrombie’s predecessor, Linda Lingle. One defender of the practice submitted a “Letter to the Editor” to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

The Judicial Selection Commission is made up of a cross-section of the public as well as attorneys who actually know the candidates… Perhaps the former governor simply lacked the ability to make tough decisions without first testing the winds of public sentiment — inappropriately I might add — as she did with the controversial civil unions bill. The selection of our judges should be based on qualifications, not popularity.

Leading Hawaii blogger Ian Lind said last week that he was disappointed in Abercrombie’s decision to keep the names secret, and later noted that the governor may still have to disclose the names based on previous rulings by the Office of Information Practices.

Ryan Ozawa

Ryan Kawailani Ozawa has immersed himself in new technologies and online communities since the days before the web. From running a dial-up BBS in the early '90s to exploring today’s dynamic world of "Web 2.0" and social media, he has long embraced and evangelized the ways in which technology can bring people together.