Senate unanimously confirms Maui judge
The state Senate yesterday voted unanimously to confirm Keith Tanaka, a criminal defense attorney, as a district court judge in Maui's 2nd Circuit.
Tanaka, also a former deputy public defender, was appointed by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald T.Y. Moon to replace retiring Judge Reinette Cooper.
Tanaka's wife, mother, brother, sister and brother-in-law were in the Senate gallery for the 23-0 vote. Two senators were excused.
"Too often, I think, we don't have that perspective in the judicial ranks," state Sen. Rosalyn Baker, D-5th (W. Maui, S. Maui), said of Tanaka's background as a defense attorney.
State Sen. Clayton Hee, D-23rd (Kane'ohe, Kahuku), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, endorsed Tanaka but used his confirmation to inform the judiciary and the Lingle administration that the Senate would insist on more transparency about the backgrounds and records of nominees.
Hee said it took several requests for the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel to release records on Tanaka.
Hee said the Senate was preparing to subpoena the records if the office did not comply.
The senator also said his committee would hear a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing the Senate to automatically reject, rather than approve, nominations that are not acted upon within 30 days.
Correction: Two state senators were excused Friday in the 23-0 vote to confirm criminal defense attorney Keith Tanaka as a district court judge in Maui's 2nd Circuit. A previous version of this story incorrectly said one senator was excused.