HONOLULU - Maui District Court Judge Rhonda Iwalani Lai Loo said she was excited and honored to be nominated for 2nd Circuit Court judge Monday by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
The governor picked Loo to replace retired 2nd Circuit Judge Joel August.
"I'm so looking forward to this new job and serving in this new capacity. I'm looking forward to serving the people of Maui County," said Loo, who admitted she was speechless for once, when she got the call from Abercrombie before the decision was released publicly.
I’m so looking forward to this new job and serving in this new capacity. I’m looking forward to serving the people of Maui County.
– Rhonda Iwalani Lai Loo, nominee for 2nd Circuit Court judge
Circuit Court judges are appointed to 10-year terms by the governor from a list of nominees provided by the Judicial Selection Commission. The governor's judicial appointees are subject to confirmation by the state Senate.
Loo did not know when she would go before the Senate for confirmation, but she said she hoped it would be soon.
"I'm crossing my fingers and my toes," she said of the confirmation process.
Loo, 49, of Wailuku, worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney for Maui County and served as a law clerk for former 2nd Circuit Judge E. John McConnell.
"This appointment is a natural step forward for Judge Loo, who has worked hard over the years in serving within the state's court system," Abercrombie said. "She is committed to continuing her judicial service in Maui."
Defense attorney William Sloper, a former deputy prosecutor, said he was pleased with Loo's appointment.
"Judge Loo has shown that she can be fair and just to all litigants with integrity and moral courage," said Sloper who has practiced law on Maui for nearly 15 years.
Loo earned her law degree from the University of Hawaii's William S. Richardson School of Law.
She is a graduate of the University of Oregon and a member of the Hawaii State Trial Judges Association, the Maui County Bar Association and the Hawaii State Bar Association.
Loo's appointment comes after Wailuku attorney Joseph Wildman withdrew as Abercrombie's nominee to replace August. Wildman cited an "unresolved situation" with his former Honolulu law firm in announcing his decision.
Loo, a 1980 Baldwin High School graduate, has been a District Court judge for nearly 14 years.
"I was raised here. I feel I have a stake in the community. If we can all get over the little speed bumps together, we feel we can make Maui County a better place," Loo said.
She is married to Maui Police Department Detective Wendell Loo and doesn't foresee any problems at the Circuit Court level because of her husband's job.
As she has done in District Court cases, she would recuse herself from cases involving her husband.
Loo, who couldn't contain her excitement over the appointment, said she would do her best to make decisions on the law and the facts.
She thanked her mother, Pearl Lai, of Kahului, and her late father, Walter Lai, whom she said raised her to be the person she is now and always pushed her to do the best she could.