Maui News

Native Hawaiian Selection Made for Federal Judge

November 15, 2012, 8:31 AM HST
* Updated November 15, 10:41 AM
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Hawaii flag. File photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

President Barack Obama announced the nomination of Derrick Kahala Watson to the bench of the US District Court for the District of Hawaii.

If confirmed by the Senate, he would become the only native Hawaiian federal judge serving the federal court.

Watson is a 1984 graduate of Kamehameha Schools and went on to attend Harvard College and Law School.  Watson received his Juris Doctor in 1991 from Harvard Law School, his Bachelor of Arts in 1988 from Harvard College. He currently serves as Chief of the Civil Division of the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii.

Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono was among the Hawai’i government leaders who praised the nomination saying, “It is important to see that qualified individuals from diverse communities are able to serve our nation in a variety of ways.”

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Senator Daniel K. Inouye also commended the nomination saying Kahala Watson is a “strong selection.”

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“He consistently displayed exemplary legal acumen, integrity, and fairness during his decade as a federal prosecutor in Northern California and Hawaii and that will serve him well on the federal bench. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to join me in supporting his timely confirmation and I applaud Derrick’s willingness to serve Hawaii and our nation,” said US Sen. Inouye.

Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus also commended the nomination, saying he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from his career in the legal field, especially in his background with civil justice and rights.

“Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are markedly absent from the federal judiciary. No native Hawaiians currently serve as Article III judges, and no Native Americans serve on the federal bench,” CAPAC officials said in a statement.

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Watson, they said, would break that trend.

His prior experiences include private practice in San Francisco and several years in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. Watson also served in the United States Army Reserve and was a captain in the JAG Corps from 1998-2006.

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