Senate confirms Judge Masunaga

Margaret Masunaga officially became District Judge Masunaga upon her confirmation Thursday by the state Senate in a special session.

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Margaret Masunaga officially became District Judge Masunaga upon her confirmation Thursday by the state Senate in a special session.

Senators praised Masunaga for her community service, her work with domestic violence and her years of dedication as they voted 24-0 to confirm her to be a district judge in the 3rd Circuit Court in Kona.

“Ms. Masunaga is well known to some of you,” said Sen. Clayton Hee, an Oahu Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that recommended her confirmation. “She’s well known to me.”

Hee criticized those who “wish to remain anonymous” and have been calling senators “at the last minute” to ask them to reconsider Masunga’s confirmation. The calls follow a negative evaluation from the Hawaii State Bar Association. The Bar Association said it had serious concerns that Masunaga lacks the courtroom experience to effectively do the job, especially in a district court that has a busy calendar.

Hee noted that Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald a month ago had asked for comments on a list of potential nominees, including Masunaga. The position was left vacant when District Court Judge Joseph Florendo retired earlier this year. She was one of six finalists the judiciary named to replace Florendo.

“That was the perfect opportunity for people who had reservations to make comments,” Hee said.

Masunaga is a deputy corporation counsel who previously served as deputy director of the Hawaii County Planning Department, as a deputy attorney general, and as an associate at Goodsill Anderson Quinn &Stifel. Her 20 years of government service follow five years practicing in the courtroom.

Other senators praised Masunaga for her work advocating for women and families.

She has served as the Hawaii State Delegate to the American Bar Association since 2009, and as co-president, treasurer and assistant treasurer for the West Hawaii Bar Association. Masunaga is a member of the Kona Japanese Civic Association Board and was a member of the West Hawaii Committee for Hawaii Island United Way in 2009, and also was a state delegate to the White House Forum on Women &the Economy. She also volunteers at the 3rd Circuit Court’s Self-Help Center in Kona, as well as with the Kids First program, and has served as an arbitrator in the Court Annexed Arbitration program.

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“She is more than qualified. In fact she is highly qualified,” said Sen. Jill Tokuda, an Oahu Democrat. “We would be so well served to have her serve on the bench. I know that she will do us proud in this capacity.”

Masunaga did not return messages left via voice mail or email by press time Thursday.

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