Ige names former campaign manager for appeals court

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige has nominated his high school friend and former campaign manager for a seat on the state Intermediate Court of Appeals.

The Democratic governor’s nomination of Keith Hiraoka, 59, comes more than a year after Ige nominated him to become a First Circuit judge on Oahu, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

Hiraoka “was the most qualified applicant and the right fit for this position,” Ige said in a statement. “He has years of experience, legal and analytical skills, and will complement the other judges on the Intermediate Court of Appeals.”

Hiraoka, who declined comment Monday, was a managing partner of a Honolulu law firm before he became a judge in April 2017.

He stepped down as Ige’s campaign manager in January 2017 after learning that the state Judicial Selection Commission had advanced his name to the governor for consideration for appointment to the state’s second highest court. He was selected for a circuit court instead.

Ige chose Hiraoka from a list of six people sent to him by the Judicial Selection Commission, a spokeswoman said.

“Ige personally interviewed the nominees and sought input and guidance from former Supreme Court Justice James Duffy and the legal community before making his selection,” according to a statement.

Marissa Kerns, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, called on lawmakers to reject Hiraoka, citing his short time as a judge and his political contributions to the governor’s campaign.

“Now, Ige has given this same former campaign manager and mega-donor Mr. Hiraoka a massive promotion to Hawaii’s intermediate court of appeals with another cushy state judgeship after almost no time for Hiraoka to even prove himself in the first job,” Kerns said in a statement. “That’s a ridiculously speedy promotion for Governor Ige’s handpicked political insider.”

The state Senate is expected to meet in a special session later this month to consider Ige’s judicial nominations.