By Nancy Cook Lauer
Friday, August 20, 2010
Female judges are certainly nothing new. But it was still noteworthy when Hawaii's first female governor tried and failed earlier this month to name the first woman chief justice to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
"I believe that I've been respectful and nice," Leonard told the panel when asked about her temperament. "Sometimes you disagree. I think I've disagreed respectfully. I think that I work hard to build consensus; I think I work hard to listen to the input of other people. But sometime you don't always agree and you have to as a judge, you have to follow your conscience and the rule of law and not always go with the other person."
Lingle called the Senate vote "the height of hypocrisy," as that same body last year sent her a resolution calling on her to appoint more women to the bench.
"It's extremely sad that someone of Judge Leonard's stature and legal expertise became a victim of bias that had no merit or basis," Lingle said in a statement. "It's also very telling that not one woman senator supported Judge Leonard's confirmation, despite being so impassioned about getting more women on the bench."
Among Leonard's most vocal opponents was the 4,667-member Hawaii State Bar Association. President Hugh Jones said Leonard was deemed unsuitable by a 10-man, 10-woman board.
"Applicants for judicial office are never told the reasons that they do not make the list of nominees," Jones told the Judiciary Committee, adding that he's also forbidden by the bar association's rule and past practice to divulge the organized bar's reservations to the committee.
That didn't satisfy some of the most vocal critics of the Senate's action.
"As for expressed concerns about Judge Leonard's 'judicial temperament,' I hope that Judge Leonard is not being subjected to gender bias or held to a standard that is different from that applied to a male nominee," Honolulu attorney Rhonda Griswold, a partner at Cades Schutte, told the Senate panel. "To the extent Judge Leonard might have been regarded as assertive or tough in her litigation practice, those traits are generally viewed as positive attributes when applied to a male candidate and should be viewed positively in a female candidate as well."
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Nancy Cook Lauer is an award-winning government reporter based in Hawaii.
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