Wednesday, September 13, 2006

President's Letter: September 2006- Sitting on Top of the Hill

The race for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional seat has been dominated by one bit of ugliness–the younger challenger thinks the incumbent is too old to serve in Congress. I wonder, if he succeeds in the election, will he remove himself from office when he reaches the same age, and give up his seniority just so a younger person can move in? Of course not. By the time Ed Case reaches Daniel Akaka’s age, he’ll likely accumulate something called “wisdom” and realize the folly of his earlier argument.

Age is an issue elsewhere on the November ballot. There is a State Constitutional amendment to remove an arbitrary and discriminatory limit on the age of state justices and judges. Kokua Council strongly recommends that its members support this amendment. Look for it on your ballot and please vote “yes.”

Hawaii presently requires that judges retire at 70. This is not only a violation of civil liberties but also a waste of valuable judicial talent, experience, and yes, wisdom. There are plenty of examples here, on the Mainland, and around the world of judges and other professionals (even members of Congress) serving way past that age.

Some of the most learned opinions are penned by, well, the most learned judges, not the ones springing fresh from a few years of law practice. We have a special name in Hawaii for our respected elders: kupuna.

Each of the cultures that comprise our community has a history of respect for those who are able and willing to carry on with their jobs when they could instead be comfortably retired. We don’t believe in discarding the valuable resource they represent. If someone is good at what they do, let them continue to serve. We should recognize that they are not “over the hill” but are in fact sitting on top of it.

So vote “yes” to remove age discrimination in the judiciary.

Editor's Note: Other ways to review fitness of judges regardless of age. The Judicial Selection Commission reviews judges who wish to continue in office at the end of each term. This review includes an examination of the judge’s performance and solicitation of public comment. The Hawaii Commission on Judicial Conduct investigates reports of judicial misconduct.