Controversy at the Supreme Court nominee hearing

There were fireworks at a Senate committee hearing Saturday to discuss Judge Michael Wilson’s nomination to the Supreme Court of Hawaii.

The judiciary committee has already endorsed this nomination, but there was a confrontation between the head of the Hawaii State Bar Association and committee chairman, Sen. Clayton Hee.

The hearing centered on how the association arrived at its decision that Wilson was “unqualified” for the Supreme Court post. The HSBA will not reveal any of its files that might reflect that decision.

“I’m sure that our board does not hold much weight or give much weight to innuendo or rumor,” said Greg Markham, president-elect of Hawaii State Bar Association. “The specific comments received from specific commenters were comments they made based on personal knowledge.”

The Senate women’s caucus called for Saturday’s second confirmation hearing due in part to unconfirmed reports that Judge Wilson had “demeaned” female members of his staff.

The HSBA gave Wilson a highly qualified rating when he was first appointed to the bench. Markham said the unqualified rating by the bar when it comes to the Supreme Court involves many elements.

“A much higher standard of acumen, legal knowledge, ability to communicate would be appropriate,” Markham said. “It’s often said, Senator, trial judges are paid to make decisions, appellate judges are paid to be right.”

Then, things began to heat up between Hee and Markham.

“In arriving at this judgment, is it your professional opinion as a practicing attorney that the process involved by the board of directors in arriving at this decision was consistent with the principles of due process, yes or no?” Hee asked.

“I’m answering the question,” Markham responded. “I’m modifying the response now.”

Markham insisted that specific allegations by specific commenters would not be revealed. “We can’t give the answer to specific facts because we would give away the confidentiality of the commenter,” Markham said. “No one wants to become the next Anita Hill.”

Later in the afternoon, Judge Wilson went before the committee himself to answer the committee’s questions.

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