Fujino named interim chief judge of Third Circuit

  • Judge Melvin Fujino was named interim Chief Judge, Administrative Judge, Senior Judge of Family Court and Senior Environmental Court Judge of the 3rd Circuit. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — In addition to his criminal and civil court caseload, drug court and veterans court, Kona Circuit Court Judge Melvin H. Fujino is taking on a whole lot more.

Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald assigned Fujino to four interim positions in the 3rd Circuit, which encompasses the entire island.

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He’s now chief judge, administrative judge, senior judge of Family Court and senior environmental court judge, effective Nov. 29.

“I am confident in Judge Fujino’s ability to lead the 3rd Circuit, and appreciate his willingness to take on the role of interim chief judge,” said Recktenwald. “I also want to thank the judges and staff of the 3rd Circuit for their support of him, and for their unwavering commitment to serving the Hawaii Island community.”

The assignments follow the retirement of Chief Judge Greg Nakamura, who took over the post following the retirement of Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra in 2017. Fujino previously served as first deputy chief judge under Nakamura.

“Judge Nakamura was a thorough, intelligent and fair judge,” said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sheri Lawson. “Like Judge Ibarra previously, Judge Nakamura’s shoes are not easily filled. However Judge Fujino exhibits the uncompromising judicial integrity, knowledge and inherent fairness of both Judge Ibarra and Judge Nakamura. The naming of Judge Fujino as Interim Chief Judge is a great decision and he will undoubtedly follow in the footsteps of those before him and continue to future the integrity and fairness the judiciary is known for on the Big Island.”

The interim assignments last six months. After that time, Recktenwald will permanently designate the positions.

Fujino said the positions entail more administrative duties, but he is up to the task.

“I had the experience of working with Judge Ibarra and will try to carry on his leadership example,” he said.

Fujino said he is excited to take the 3rd Circuit to a new, different level. He feels lucky to have a good relationship with the community.

“Times change. We are in a new courthouse and doing new things,” he said.

One of those new things is meeting with other agencies to get more input on cases.

“It is so much more beneficial. Communication is so important,” he said.

Fujino was appointed by Gov. David Ige on Dec. 18, 2015, to serve as a 3rd Circuit Court Judge. He was first appointed by then-Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Moon as a family court judge for the North/South Kohala and Hamakua districts on Dec. 19, 2008.

Prior to his appointment to the bench, he served as a deputy attorney general for the State of Hawaii and was assigned to the Criminal Justice Division. He served as a team leader and supervisor for the Asset Forfeiture and Wire Tap Review units.

Before joining the Department of the Attorney General for the State of Hawaii, he served for 15 years as a deputy prosecuting attorney. He was a supervisor and community-oriented prosecutor for the West Hawaii branch of the Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

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District Court Judge Margaret Masunaga also weighed in on Fujino’s appointment.

“The Honorable Melvin Fujino has had excellent mentoring by retired Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra,” she said. “It is also a testament to the excellent education he received at Konawaena High School.”

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