Kubo gains key senator's support
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
Former U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo's chances of being confirmed by the state Senate as a Circuit Court judge improved yesterday when an influential senator who had opposed Kubo said he would likely vote for his confirmation.
State Sen. Brian Taniguchi, D-10th (Mänoa, McCully), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Government Operations Committee, said he was impressed by the way Kubo handled himself since the committee deadlocked on his nomination last week.
Taniguchi had recommended that Kubo be rejected. The senator was concerned about the way Kubo answered questions about whether he should have disclosed cases where he had been criticized as a prosecutor on his application with the Judicial Selection Commission.
Taniguchi, who met privately yesterday with Kubo in his second-floor Senate office, said he talked with Kubo again about his reasons for not disclosing the cases. He said he also took into consideration Kubo's demeanor since the committee vote.
"I'm more inclined to vote with reservations," Tani-guchi said.
Kubo has declined to publicly comment about his nomination to the news media and, while some of his supporters have used talk radio and conservative Web sites to attack the senators who opposed him, Kubo has sought to avoid fueling their anger.
"After the vote, I thought he handled himself very well," Taniguchi said. "He was very professional."
SENATE VOTES TODAY
Taniguchi's shift is significant, since state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nänäkuli, Mäkaha), and other majority Democrats have said they would follow his recommendation as chairman.
"I will go with the chair," Hanabusa said last night, adding that she believes other senators will as well.
A second senator on the committee who voted against Kubo, state Sen. Clarence Nishihara, D-18th (Waipahu, Crestview, Pearl City), also said yesterday that he would vote with reservations to confirm Kubo after meeting with him privately.
Nishihara, like Taniguchi, said he discussed the disclosure issue with Kubo. "His explanations seemed plausible to me," he said.
A Senate vote on Kubo is scheduled for this morning. The Senate, which has advise and consent power over Gov. Linda Lingle's judicial nominations, must act today or the 30 days allowed by state law for review will expire and Kubo will automatically become a judge.
Kubo, a Republican nominated by a Republican governor, had received broad support in legal and political circles and was praised for his record as a prosector and for his history of community service. Prominent Democrats, including Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi, offered written letters of praise.
FAILURE TO DISCLOSE
But two assistant U.S. attorneys who used to work with Kubo opposed his nomination in written testimony, and several senators became concerned after learning that Kubo did not disclose cases where his conduct was criticized on his application with the Judicial Selection Commission.
Senators rely on the Judicial Selection Commission to vet potential judicial nominees, since senators often do not have the time or staff to conduct their own full reviews of a candidate's qualifications and case history. The commission is responsible for providing a list of nominees to the governor, who makes the appointments.
Taniguchi said his shift was not influenced by the criticism on talk radio or the Internet, but by another review of the cases in question and by Kubo's record.
"For me, I don't put much weight into some of those things," he said. "I'm sure people might feel that, well, because of that, we changed our minds or something. But I think it was more my evaluation of his character and how he handled this situation."
Outside the state Capitol yesterday afternoon, several of Kubo's supporters held a rally.
Mary Jean Castillo-Barkley, the publisher of Hawai'i's Most Wanted magazine, organized the rally because she wanted the Senate to hear their voices.
"Stop doing all this, enough already," she said. "They have other important things to do, focus on that. Don't have the magnifying glass on Ed, because he has proven himself. He had a proven track record to go after all the criminals, and I don't know why they are treating him like that."