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Green Nominates Ginoza, Devens To Hawaii Supreme Court

An attorney in private practice with strong ties to labor and a veteran judge on the state’s appellate court have been nominated to serve on the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Gov. Josh Green on Monday named Vladimir Devens, a Honolulu lawyer from a prominent political family, and Lisa Ginoza, chief judge of Hawaii’s Intermediate Court of Appeals. Both nominations are subject to state Senate confirmation, a process that is expected to be completed no later than Nov. 21.

“The nominations have to ensure diversity beyond just gender and race,” Green said of his guiding principles in the search process. “It’s also background and experience that I was looking for to balance the court carefully this time. These two nominees have very different legal backgrounds, and it was their diversity and depth of experience that served as the most compelling reasons to select them.”

Ginoza has served as chief judge of the ICA for five of her 13 years with the court. She also served as First Deputy Attorney General from 2005 to 2010.

In private practice, Ginoza worked for “some of the top law firms in Honolulu overseeing various types of litigation and handled cases at all court levels,” according to a press release from the administration.

Gov. Josh Green on Monday announcing his nominees for the Hawaii Supreme Court. Vlad Devins and Lisa Ginoza are seated in the front row. (Chad Blair/Civil Beat/2023)

Devens is principal at the Law Offices of Vladimir P. Devens and was formerly a partner at Meheula, Devens & Winer, as well as at Meheula & Devens.

Devens represents several labor unions, including the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers. He is also on the Disciplinary Board of the Hawaii Supreme Court and a director for the nonprofit Crime Stoppers Honolulu Inc. and was previously chair of the State Land Use Commission.

Green noted that both of his nominees are products of the state’s public school system, and they attended public universities for undergraduate work and then law school. Ginoza is a graduate of the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law. Devens graduated from the University of California, Berkeley law school.

The governor said that he received multiple recommendations for Ginoza. “If I may, it was almost impossible not to consider her after that much input from her peers,” he said.

As for Devens, “who is known for his Pidgin-laced intellectual opinions,” Green said the nominee “brought a freshness to the process, and I really appreciated the ability to have a choice from an exceptional list that wasn’t only people who are currently on the bench.”

The governor said Devens also came highly recommended including from “many former judges,” and he downplayed any notion that it was political pick.

“I’m pleased that we have such balance between these two individuals, one who’s currently at the top of one of the courts and another who’s at the top of his profession as a litigator,” he said.

And, while the governor said he wanted to look beyond gender, his office said there are currently 40 female and 41 male judges and justices on the state bench.

Before introducing his picks at a press conference at the Capitol, Green praised the other four names sent to him from the Judicial Selection Commission. Calling them “exceptional,” the governor said it is likely that all four will qualify for future lists of court nominees.

If confirmed, the nomination of Ginoza will open a vacancy on the seven-member ICA.

Mandatory Retirement

Earlier this year, Mike Wilson and Paula Nakayama retired from the five-member high court upon hitting the mandatory retirement age of 70. Green will likely have the chance to pick a third justice when Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald turns 70 in 2025.

Asked if he would like to see the retirement age for Hawaii judges and justices raised, Green said as a legislator he submitted legislation to raise the age to 75.

“I would love to see that, but in truth, I don’t want to at this point meddle further, because whatever governor follows me in the coming years should have the opportunities to do what I have,” he said, adding that he would leave such decisions to the Legislature.

Gov. Josh Green, center, has nominated attorney Vlad Devens and Judge Lisa Ginoza to serve on the Hawaii Supreme Court. (Chad Blair/Civil Beat/2023)

The confirmation process will begin with a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Nov. 17.

“Being a state supreme court justice is an incredible responsibility, and the Senate has the vital constitutional obligation to ensure that these appointees are qualified to sit on the highest court in our state, Judiciary Chair Karl Rhoads said in a statement Monday afternoon. “Between now and the special session in November, the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and I will conduct a thorough review of the appointees.”

Hawaii Supreme Court and ICA nominations have sometimes been contentious affairs.

In 2010, the state Senate rejected by a 14-8 vote ICA Judge Katherine Leonard to lead the court. The Hawaii State Bar Association called Leonard, who was nominated by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, unqualified.

In 2014, Circuit Court Judge Mike Wilson was approved by the Senate in a 23-1 vote. The nomination of Wilson by Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie raised concerns about Wilson’s treatment of women and his fitness for the job. But then-Senate Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee called the allegations “unsubstantiated.”

And in 2021, the Senate declined in a 17-6 vote to appoint Dan Gluck to the ICA shortly after Gluck asked Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, to withdraw his name from consideration for the court. Testifiers opposing Gluck pointed to his apparent lack of courtroom experience while others raised concerns over the lack of diversity on the state judiciary.

Source : CivilBeat