Maui News

Native Hawaiian Confirmed to Federal Judgeship

April 18, 2013, 9:57 AM HST
* Updated April 19, 3:00 PM
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File photo by Wendy Osher.

File photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The US Senate today confirmed Derrick Kahala Watson to serve as a judge for the US District Court for the District of Hawaiʻi.

Watson becomes the sole native Hawaiian currently serving on the federal bench, and only the fourth in US history, according to Hawaiʻi’s congressional delegation who commended the announced confirmation today.

“Derrick Watson’s confirmation today recognizes his eminent qualifications to serve Hawaiʻi and our nation from the federal bench,” said US Senator Mazie Hirono who serves as a member of the Judiciary Committee.

In a joint press release issued by the Hawaiʻi delegation, Sen. Hirono said, “Beyond his legal acumen, he brings sorely needed diversity and cultural perspective to the federal bench as the sole native Hawaiian currently serving.”


Watson has served as Assistant US Attorney in the District of Hawaiʻi since 2007. His background reportedly includes AB and JD degrees from Harvard Law School, and graduation from Hawaiʻi’s Kamehameha Schools in 1984.


The judgeship that Watson is filling has been vacant since June 27, 2012 when District Judge David Ezra took on “senior status.”

Hawaiʻi delegates commended President Barack Obama for nominating Watson for the federal judgeship.

“I am proud that President Obama has reflected our state’s diversity and rich heritage with this nomination, and continued his support of women and minorities,” said US Representative Colleen Hanabusa in a statement.


Authorities with the US Courts for the Ninth Circuit note that Watson will serve a lifetime appointment upon good behavior.

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