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Hawaii Supreme Court

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Hawaii Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   5
Founded:   1841
Chief:  $214,000
Associates:  $206,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Assisted appointment
Term:   10 years
Active justices

Paula Nakayama  •  Mark Recktenwald  •  Sabrina S. McKenna  •  Richard W. Pollack  •  Michael D. Wilson  •  

Seal of Hawaii.png

Founded in 1841, the Hawaii Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort.


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Associate Justice Paula Nakayama1993-2023Gov. John D. Waihee III
Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald2009-2020Gov. Linda Lingle
Associate Justice Sabrina S. McKenna2011-2021Gov. Neil Abercrombie
Associate Justice Richard W. Pollack2012-2020Gov. Neil Abercrombie
Associate justice Michael D. Wilson2014-2024Gov. Neil Abercrombie


The Hawaii Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over cases decided in lower courts within the state. These appeals come in the form of reserved and certified questions from lower courts or federal courts, and writs of certiorari. The court has exclusive jurisdiction over elections cases, rules governing the procedures of all state courts, and regulation and discipline of attorneys and judges.[1]

Judicial selection

Judges are selected using the assisted appointment method of judicial selection where the Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission forwards a list of candidates to the Governor. The Governor of Hawaii then appoints a candidate who must then be confirmed by the Hawaii State Senate. Justices serve renewable ten-year terms which are approved or denied by the Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission. There is a mandatory retirement age of 70 for the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is appointed in the same method, but the appointment can be made from current members of the court.[2]

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Hawaii was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Hawaii received a score of -0.29. Based on the justices selected, Hawaii was the 17th most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[3]

Hawaii Supreme Court building


Minimum qualifications for appointment to the court are:

  • Under the age of 70 at time of appointment.
  • Resident of Hawaii and the United States of America.
  • Licensed to practice law for no less than ten years prior to appointment.
  • Not holding other political office or actively practicing law after appointment.[4]

Removal of Justices

Judges may be removed in two ways:


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 252 194
2013 245 209
2012 185 181
2011 166 161
2010 143 147
2009 127 127


Notable decisions


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Hawaii earned a grade of D in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[12]

History of the court

Old Honolulu Courthouse, historic home of the Hawaii Supreme Court

Notable firsts

See also

External links


HawaiiHawaii Supreme CourtHawaii Intermediate Court of AppealsHawaii Circuit CourtsHawaii District CourtsHawaii Family CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of HawaiiUnited States bankruptcy court, District of HawaiiUnited States Court of Appeals for the Ninth CircuitHawaii countiesHawaii judicial newsHawaii judicial electionsJudicial selection in HawaiiHawaiiTemplate.jpg