Lingle’s Real Legacy In Judiciary

Now that the controversial storm surrounding the handling of the Civil Unions Bill HB444 has somewhat abated, it’s time to sort out some of the speculation about the decision-making that went on behind the scenes.

There are many people who believe HB444 was about human rights. It may be. But there is a lot more to it, because with Gov. Linda Lingle’s veto, the civil union issue will be one of the hot topics in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

The state Legislature now finds itself with a “hot potato” in its lap. After sneaking the bill through the House in the middle of the night, the Legislature must now pass another bill and possibly face the task of a constitutional amendment and a two-thirds vote to put it on the ballot.

In any scenario it could be a daunting task, especially with all the candidates running for election and re-election. It’s going to be interesting to watch.

One thing is pretty certain right now: HB444 most likely will not be a “legacy-making” piece of legislation for the governor. Almost unnoticed by the voting public is that while politicians were vying for position, the governor was about to seal her definite legacy right before their very eyes.

You see, Lingle is about to appoint the next chief justice of the state Supreme Court. It is easily one of the most prestigious positions in the state of Hawaii and that chief justice will serve for 10 years.

It will be her third Supreme Court appointment.

Furthermore, the chief justice appoints, at his or her discretion, all the District Court judges, Family Court judges and other administrative officials. Additionally, the governor already has appointed more than half of the state’s 33 Circuit Court judges and also has appointed five of the six Intermediate Court of Appeals judges.

When the impact of all her judicial appointments over the years is tallied, the governor’s legacy will live on in the Judiciary. She does-n’t have to run for another office; she’s already made her mark. The idea that one piece of legislation might some way tarnish her legacy is kind of comical. All one has to do is trace her trek up the political ladder in Hawaii from her humble beginning on Molokai, then as mayor of Maui. She’s the only female governor in Hawaii’s history, not to mention that no other Neighbor Island mayor has ever been able to succeed in that effort.

And about one bill making or tarnishing a governor’s legacy: Remember the governor who signed into law Hawaii’s controversial abortion bill?

Clue: He was a Democrat and they built a statue to honor him, adorned many buildings with his name, and after all these years he is still revered by those who benefited from his greatness. Most people won’t remember the ruckus created by protesters of the abortion bill. They were even more vocal and demanding. Still, John Burns’ legacy and statue still stand proudly. That’s a good indication that a decision on one controversial bill does not make a legacy.

It might put some excitement into a gubernatorial election and give pundits something to write about, but make a legacy it doesn’t. Her mark on the Judiciary does.

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