- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) - Public officials defended a Hawaii County lawyer after the Hawaii State Bar Association deemed her unqualified to be a district judge.

West Hawaii Today reported (http://goo.gl/OeO1PO ) Tuesday that the Bar Association questioned deputy corporation counsel Margaret Masunaga’s legal knowledge, professional experience and ability to fulfill the responsibilities of the position.

There was a lot of testimony in support of Masunaga in person and in writing at a confirmation hearing. Support came from U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, retired District Court Judge Joseph Florendo, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi and about 40 more people.

Masunaga applied for a judgeship six times since 1994, she told the panel. She said the District Court is the people’s court.

“I want to be the face of the judiciary,” Masunaga said. “I want to be an active listener when people come to court.”

Bar Association President Calvin Young said that to ensure people will come forward with honest evaluations, he couldn’t divulge all of the details of the board vote.

“It basically boiled down to areas of expertise and ability to handle the District Court calendar,” Young told the committee, adding that the court has a very busy caseload.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Clayton Hee, an Oahu Democrat, questioned why the Bar Association was so critical of Masunaga but supportive of the two prior nominees that came before the committee.

“Are you using a different standard on the candidates?” Hee asked. “I’m flummoxed by the casualness of what appears to be the process.”

Members of the Senate panel appeared sympathetic as they listened to testimony for about an hour. The panel plans to make a decision Wednesday and then the full Senate would vote on judicial confirmations Thursday.

___

Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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