Honolulu attorney confirmed to 9th Circuit bench

Bennett is third Hawaii judge to sit on appellate court

The Maui News

Honolulu attorney Mark Bennett became only the third Hawaii judge to sit on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals when he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

The vote was 72-27 with Hawaii Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz voting for Bennett’s confirmation.

He will fill a judgeship vacant since Dec. 31, 2016, when Judge Richard Clifton of Honolulu assumed senior status. Instead of retiring, an appellate judge can choose to take senior status and continue to serve the judiciary at essentially no pay.

A former state attorney general, Bennett will maintain chambers in Honolulu. He was nominated to the court on Feb. 15 by President Donald Trump and appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 11.

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Bennett had been director of Starn, O’Toole, Marcus & Fisher in Honolulu since 2011. While working at the law firm, he served on occasion as special state deputy attorney and as a special deputy corporation counsel for the City and County of Honolulu.

The new federal appellate judge has been a manager, a member and an owner of Beecher Hill Properties LLC in Honolulu since 2013 and was Hawaii attorney general from 2003 to 2010.

He was a partner, from 1991 to 2002, and of counsel, from 1990 to 1991, with McCorriston, Miller, Mukai & MacKinnon LLP, formerly McCorriston, Miho & Miller. He also was an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii, from 1982 to 1989, and for the District of Columbia, from 1980 to 1982.

Bennett served as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law from 1991 to 1993, and in 2001 and 2008.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Bennett received his Bachelor of Arts from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., in 1976 and his law degree, magna cum laude, from Cornell Law School in 1979. Following law school, he clerked for then-Chief District Judge Samuel P. King of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii from 1979 to 1980.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hears appeals of cases decided by executive branch agencies and federal trial courts in nine western states, including Hawaii, and two Pacific Island jurisdictions. The court normally meets monthly in Seattle; San Francisco; and Pasadena, Calif.; every other month in Portland, Ore.; three times per year in Honolulu, and twice a year in Anchorage, Alaska.

“I have every confidence that Mark will put his skills and experience to good use on the bench as a fair and impartial judge, beholden to nothing but the law and the Constitution,” said Hirono, who introduced Bennett to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Schatz recalled working with Bennett when he was a state lawmaker and the new appellate judge was attorney general.

“Even though we were on different sides of the aisle, Mark was never difficult to work with, because he never had a partisan agenda,” Schatz said. “Instead, he approached every issue by focusing on the substance and how we could make things better for Hawaii. Because Mark made the effort to understand where others were coming from, we were able to find common ground.

“He will make an outstanding judge.”

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