A Hawaii state Senate committee was unable to reach an agreement Thursday on whether a former Hawaii U.S. Attorney should be seated on a state court, The Honolulu Advertiser reported today.
The state Senate’s Judiciary and Government Operations Committee split, 3-3, on the nomination of former U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo for a seat on Hawaii’s First Circuit Court, according to the newspaper. Kubo, who was tapped for the judgeship earlier this month, served as U.S. Attorney from 2001 until the end of September 2009, when Florence Nakakuni, President Obama’s choice for U.S. Attorney, was sworn in.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Taniguchi, a Democrat, told the newspaper he voted against Kubo because the ex-U.S. Attorney didn’t sufficiently respond to questions about controversial cases he handled.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Inciong wrote a letter to the committee criticizing Kubo for a March 2009 friend of the court brief which, the Assistant U.S. Attorney said, improperly eased a restraining order against an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. Ex-ICE agent Jonathan Winnop allegedly seriously hurt and threatened to kill his former girlfriend, ICE Special Agent Evelyn Delos Reyes Ramo.
Kubo told the state senators that he didn’t help file the brief and learned about it after the fact, according to The Advertiser.
The former U.S. Attorney also didn’t tell the judicial selection panel, which reviewed nominees for the judgeship, about apology letters he was ordered to write jurors after a judge dismissed a case because Kubo didn’t make a 1997 court hearing, the newspaper said. But he did disclose the incident to the Hawaii State Bar Association, according to The Advertiser.
Kubo said he didn’t show up for the court hearing because he went to lunch after a major explosion and power outage, according to newspaper.
“I didn’t think this was of that nature of professional negligence,” Kubo told the senators, according to The Advertiser.
Kubo’s nomination could come to the full state Senate for a vote, as early as today, even without affirmative action by the committee. But, although Kubo received strong support from the Hawaii legal community, the state Senate typically follows the recommendations of panel leaders on confirmation votes, the newspaper said.
The committee chairman told the newspaper that his decision to vote against Kubo was tough. “I think, for me, I kind of wanted to see how the nominee would respond to these kinds of concerns, because I think that’s part of what it takes to be a judge,” Taniguchi told The Advertiser.
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Two prosecutors in the Hawaii U.S. Attorney’s Office are blasting the nomination of their former boss to a state court judgeship, The Honolulu Advertiser reported today. But the negative letters were only a fraction of what the Judiciary panel received on the Kubo nomination. The committee received a “near-avalanche” of letters in support of Kubo, the newspaper said.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Muehleck and Mark Inciong submitted critical letters to the state Senate’s Judiciary and Government Operations Committee, which is considering former U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo for a seat on Hawaii’d First Circuit Court, the newspaper said. Kubo, who was tapped for the judgeship earlier this month, served as U.S. Attorney from 2001 until the end of September, when Florence Nakakuni, President Barack Obama’s choice for U.S. Attorney, was sworn in.
“I can say without reservation that in my opinion Mr. Kubo is not qualified to serve as a judge,” Muehleck wrote, according to The Advertiser.
Kubo dismissed Muehleck after the prosecutor allegedly threatened Kubo, the then-U.S. Attorney, in 2008 over losing an assigned parking space, according to the newspaper. Muehleck, a narcotics prosecutor, learned that he lost his parking space after he returned from a year-long Army deployment to Iraq, The Advertiser said.
“If I had a hand grenade now I would frag him,” Muehleck allegedly said at the time, according to the newspaper. The prosecutor has since been reinstated, The Advertiser said.
Inciong, who was described as a friend of Muehleck, criticized Kubo for a March 2009 friend of the court brief which, the Assistant U.S. Attorney said, improperly eased a restraining order against an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, according to the newspaper. Ex-ICE agent Jonathan Winnop allegedly seriously hurt and threatened to kill his former girlfriend, ICE Special Agent Evelyn Delos Reyes Ramo, The Advertiser said.
“It is ironic, to say the least, that if Mr. Kubo would be appointed to the bench it is my understanding that he would begin at the Family Court, a place where, less than a year ago, he attempted to intervene on behalf of a domestic batterer,” Inciong wrote.
Kubo declined to comment to The Advertiser on the letters. The state Senate panel will continue its hearing on the Kubo nomination on Thursday.