Maui attorneys confirmed as 2nd Circuit judges

Chris Dunn, Jim Rouse to serve six-year terms

Maui attorney Chris Dunn (right) is pictured with his wife, Pualani Enos. The state Senate voted unanimously Friday to confirm Dunn’s appointment as a 2nd Circuit judge. — Photo courtesy Chris Dunn

The state Senate voted unanimously Friday to confirm the appointments of longtime Maui attorneys Chris Dunn and Jim Rouse as 2nd Circuit judges.

Dunn will serve as a District Court judge, while Rouse will serve as a District Family Court judge.

“I found my career as a community defense attorney here to be very rewarding,” said Dunn, who has had a private practice in Wailuku for the past 18 years. “I feel like it was a public service of sorts, particularly the opportunity to represent indigent defendants on a court-appointed basis.

“Ultimately, representing individuals allows you to only serve the community in an individualized context. Being nominated and appointed and ultimately confirmed as a judge, I’m very excited about serving the Maui community in a more expansive way.”

Rouse now works as a deputy attorney general handling Family Court matters, after nearly 15 years as a deputy public defender as well as time in private practice.

Maui attorney Jim Rouse (from left) appears by videoconference alongside his 2-year-old granddaughter Lili, 6-year-old grandson Kua and wife Mona during a state Senate hearing on Friday. The Senate voted unanimously to confirm Rouse’s appointment as a 2nd Circuit judge.

“I hope to perform my duties with the courage, the compassion, the independence and the integrity necessary to be an effective judge,” he said after the confirmation vote. “I hope to always have an open mind. I pray for patience and I really look forward to serving our community in this fashion. It really is the highest honor of my life.”

All of the testimony submitted for both Dunn and Rouse supported their appointments, Sen. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said at the Senate session Friday morning.

Dunn, who has 25 years of experience as a lawyer, has had a private law practice since moving to Maui in 2002 from Massachusetts. He has a high volume of cases representing privately retained and court-appointed clients in District, Family and Circuit courts, and administrative proceedings.

“During the confirmation process, he spoke strongly of his commitment to public service, including spending a significant portion of his criminal defense work representing indigent clients,” Rhoads said.

He said those submitting testimony spoke of Dunn’s “legal expertise, genuine concern for his clients, outstanding professional demeanor and ability to build strong working relationships with judges, court clerks and staff and opposing counsel.”

Dunn is a graduate of George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., and was admitted to the Hawaii State Bar in 2002. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

He replaces Judge Kelsey Kawano, who is now a 2nd Circuit judge.

Rouse will replace retired Judge Lloyd Poelman.

Rouse graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and was admitted to the Hawaii State Bar in 1994. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Chico State University in California.

“He’s devoted his legal career to public service for the state of Hawaii,” Rhoads said during the session Friday.

He said Rouse has been active in the legal community, serving on the board of directors of the Maui County Bar Association and as a judge in mock trial competitions.

Those submitting testimony referred to Rouse’s “legal expertise, as well as his professional and compassionate disposition,” Rhoads said.

“Numerous testifiers praised his respectful candor, integrity and profound care for the most vulnerable members of the community,” Rhoads said.

The 25 “aye” votes Friday for Dunn and Rouse came four days after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend the appointments of both to six-year terms on the bench.

Rhoads said the committee found both men “well qualified to serve.”

Senate President Ron Kouchi said he enjoyed meeting both Dunn and Rouse.

“Their enthusiasm and passion for wanting to serve really came across,” Kouchi said.

Dunn and Rouse appeared by videoconference for the session — Dunn with his wife, Pualani Enos; and Rouse with his wife, Mona, their 6-year-old grandson, Kua, and 2-year-old granddaughter, Lili.

Rouse said it was “heartwarming beyond belief” to read the dozens of letters written in support of his appointment.

He acknowledged Dunn, whom Rouse has known for 18 years.

“After going through this experience, we’re like brothers,” Rouse said. “I can’t wait to have him as a colleague and a friend in our new jobs.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper?


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today