On Monday, 1st Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled that Gov. Neil Abercrombie must release the names of candidates for judicial appointments.
The ruling came as the result of a suit by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that claimed withholding the names violated the state open records law.
When there are vacancies in state courts, the Judicial Selection Commission accepts applications for the positions and submits a list of potential candidates for the governor to select his appointment from.
Former Gov. Linda Lingle would release the list of potential replacements before the appointment to garner public comment. When Ben Cayetano was governor, he would release the list of applicants after his selection was made.
Abercrombie has chosen to keep the potential replacement list secret both before and after the appointment. The Star-Advertiser sued after Abercrombie refused to release the names of other candidates when he appointed Sabrina McKenna to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
The Governor's Office told the newspaper in an email before the suit was decided that "the Governor believes getting the names out is detrimental to attracting prospective judicial applicants. His approach in making judicial appointments is to ensure the confidentiality of these applicants."
We are baffled by this stance. Gov. Neil Abercrombie is a well-documented liberal who should, ostensibly, believe in an open and transparent government. And, folks, the judiciary is a very important part of government.
We think Lingle was on the right track. Get public input before the appointment, let people know who wants to be a judge.
We're not certain why anybody who aspires to a judgeship would be adverse to the public knowing he or she had such aspirations. What is gained by secrecy?
Let's hope the governor does the right thing - not appeal this ruling - and starts letting a little sun shine in on the way his administration does business.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.