Honolulu, Hawaii


RE: GOV. MSG. NO. 617




Honorable Ronald D. Kouchi

President of the Senate

Twenty-Ninth State Legislature

Regular Session of 2018

State of Hawaii




Your Committee on Judiciary, to which was referred Governor's Message No. 617, submitting for study and consideration the appointment of:


First Circuit Court Judge


G.M. No. 617


for a term to expire in 10 years,


begs leave to report as follows:


Your Committee reviewed the personal history, resume, and statement submitted by Judge James H. Ashford for service on the Circuit Court of the First Circuit.


Your Committee received testimony in support of the appointment of Judge James H. Ashford from nine individuals. Your Committee received comments on the appointment of Judge James H. Ashford from the Board of Directors of the Hawaii State Bar Association.


The Hawaii State Bar Association Board of Directors found the appointee to be qualified for the position of First Circuit Court Judge based on established criteria for determining the qualifications of judicial and executive appointments generally using the American Bar Association Guidelines for Reviewing Qualifications of Candidates for State Judicial Office. Specifically, the Board uses the following criteria in its deliberations: integrity and diligence, legal knowledge and ability, professional experience, judicial temperament, financial responsibility, public service, health, and ability to perform the responsibilities and duties required of the position for which the applicant has been nominated. The Board's rating system includes the categories of "qualified" and "not qualified".


Judge James H. Ashford received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Claremont McKenna College, and his Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Loyola Law School, where he was on the Dean's List in his first two years. He currently serves as a District Judge of the First Circuit, where he presides primarily over criminal cases brought in the District Court. He has also presided over civil and felony criminal trials while on temporary assignment to the Circuit Court.


Prior to his appointment to the District Court of the First Circuit, Judge Ashford served as a litigation partner with Cades Schutte, LLP, where he represented a broad variety of clients in civil litigation, including contract, tort, employment, and trust and estate cases. Additionally, he represented several private secondary and post-secondary schools on issues concerning employee termination, accommodations, tenure, discipline, expulsion, and tuition. In his private litigation practice, Judge Ashford represented clients in proceedings at every level of the Hawaii state court system, including the Intermediate Court of Appeals and the Hawaii Supreme Court.


Judge Ashford has also been involved in the legal community, having served as a judge for Loyola Law School's annual moot court competition between eight and ten times over an approximately twelve-year period and has served as a Court Annexed Arbitration Program arbitrator several times. He is also currently president of the Hawaii State Trial Judges Association. In private practice, he was a member of his firm's Attorney Training and Development Committee for approximately twenty years, which included formally and informally mentoring and training associates, as well as attending annual attorney performance evaluations.


Testimony submitted in support of Judge Ashford's appointment draws attention to his thoughtful, high quality legal analysis; deep knowledge of Hawaii law and court procedures; dedication to training young lawyers and helping to improve the State's legal system; and commitment to ensuring that he and others comply with ethical standards governing lawyers and judges. He is consistently patient and thoughtful in the cases over which he presides, and takes time to listen to litigants and render fair decisions. Several testifiers noted his great personal integrity, unwavering professionalism, and dedication to the fair and even-handed application of justice.


Your Committee finds that, based on the testimony submitted on his behalf, Judge James H. Ashford has the experience, temperament, judiciousness, and other competencies to be a First Circuit Court Judge, and has the strong personal integrity, superb judicial temperament, and legal acumen that are essential for a First Circuit Court Judge.


As affirmed by the record of votes of the members of your Committee on Judiciary that is attached to this report, your Committee, after full consideration of the background, experience, and qualifications of the appointee, has found the appointee to be qualified for the position to which appointed and recommends that the Senate consent to the appointment.


Respectfully submitted on behalf of the members of the Committee on Judiciary,