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Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Friday selected a Native Hawaiian prosecutor and former high school teacher for an appeals court judge vacancy after he initially appointed a white man who faced criticism over equitable racial and gender representation on the state’s highest courts.

The appointment of Sonja McCullen, a deputy Honolulu prosecuting attorney and former Waianae High School teacher, is subject to state Senate confirmation.

McCullen was among six nominees for the Intermediate Court of Appeals on a list submitted to Ige by the state Judicial Selection Commission.

Ige initially selected Daniel Gluck, the executive director of the Hawaii Ethics Commission, prompting the House Native Hawaiian Caucus to send Ige a letter saying there are “no native Hawaiian, Filipino, Pacific Islander, or African American judges at the Supreme Court or the ICA.”

Some critics said it’s been 30 years since a Native Hawaiian was appointed to the Intermediate Court of Appeals and 20 years since a Native Hawaiian was appointed to the state Supreme Court.

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary voted not to recommend the Senate consent to appointing Gluck.

Gluck attempted to withdraw his name from the confirmation process, but doing so would have created confusion over how the next appointment would be made. The Senate went ahead and voted not to consent to his appointment, which allowed the governor to make another appointment from the five remaining nominees.

McCullen has been a deputy prosecuting attorney for 11 years, most recently in the appellate division, Ige said in a news release announcing her appointment.

She was a social studies, Hawaiian studies and Hawaiian language teacher at Waianae High School from August 1994 to July 1999, according to the governor’s office.


Stephen Zappala Sr., a former chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court being remembered for his distinguished legal career and public service, has died. He was 88.

Officials from the William Slater II Funeral Service of Pittsburgh said Zappala Sr. died Friday.

The Pittsburgh native was born on Sept. 26, 1932, attended and played basketball for Notre Dame and Duquesne universities and got his law degree from Georgetown University Law School in 1958. He served in the Army and attained the rank of first lieutenant before returning to Pittsburgh to begin private law practice.

Zappala Sr. then became Allegheny County’s planning director and solicitor before winning a Common Pleas court seat. In 1981, he was elected to the state Supreme Court and became chief justice in 2001 before retiring in December 2002.

While serving on the state’s highest court, he initiated, developed and fully integrated “the largest court automation system of its type in the country,” according to the obituary posted by the funeral home. “His efforts combined and automated systems of the three appellate courts in Pennsylvania, making it much easier and efficient for litigants, counsel, and the courts to operate,” it said.


The first Black man to serve on the Florida Supreme court has died. Joseph W. Hatchett was 88.

The court announced Saturday that Hatchett died in Tallahassee. No cause of death was given.

Hatchett was the first African American on the state high court when he was appointed by then Gov. Reubin Askew in 1975, according to the court.

In 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter named Hatchett to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hatchett graduated from Florida A&M University in 1954, then earned his law degree in 1959 from the Howard University School of Law,

Hatchett also worked as a federal prosecutor and in private practice.


Ramsey Clark, the attorney general in the Johnson administration who became an outspoken activist for unpopular causes and a harsh critic of U.S. policy, has died. He was 93.

Clark, whose father, Tom Clark, was attorney general and U.S. Supreme Court justice, died on Friday at his Manhattan home, a family member, Sharon Welch, announced to media outlets including The New York Times and The Washington Post.

After serving in President Lyndon Johnson’s Cabinet in 1967 and ’68, Clark set up a private law practice in New York in which he championed civil rights, fought racism and the death penalty, and represented declared foes of the United States including former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. He also defended former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

New York civil rights attorney Ron Kuby, who worked with Clark on numerous cases, called the death “very, very sad in a season of losses.”

“The progressive legal community has lost its elder dean and statesman,” Kuby said. “Over many generations, Ramsey Clark was a principled voice, conscience and a fighter for civil and human rights.”

In courtrooms around the country Clark defended antiwar activists. In the court of public opinion, he charged the United States with militarism and arrogance, starting with the Vietnam War and continuing with Grenada, Libya, Panama and the Gulf War.

When Clark visited Iraq after Operation Desert Storm and returned to accuse the United States of war crimes, Newsweek dubbed him the Jane Fonda of the Gulf War.


A private funeral will be held Friday for the Mississippi judge who handed down a life sentence to the white supremacist convicted of killing civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

Retired Hinds County Circuit Court Judge L. Breland Hilburn died Monday at the University of Mississippi Medical Center of complications from COVID-19, according to a news release from the state Administrative Office of Courts. He was 79.

Hilburn presided over the 1994 murder trial of former fertilizer salesman Byron De La Beckwith in the killing of Evers three decades earlier.

The Mississippi NAACP leader was shot to death in his own driveway shortly after midnight on June 12, 1963, while his wife and their three small children were inside the home in Jackson. President John F. Kennedy had given a televised speech about civil rights hours earlier. Prosecutors said Beckwith staked out the Evers home, waiting across the street to assassinate the World War II veteran.

Two all-white juries tried Beckwith in the 1960s, but they deadlocked and mistrials were declared. The case was reopened in the early 1990s after new witnesses came forward. In 1994, an integrated jury convicted  Beckwith of murder, and Hilburn sentenced him to life in prison. Beckwith died in prison in 2001.

Hilburn retired May 31, 2002, after spending 30 years as a city, county or circuit judge. He continued working part-time in retirement as senior status judge until 2017 — a position appointed by the state Supreme Court. In that role, Hilburn helped Hinds County deal with a long criminal docket when the jail was crowded with pretrial detainees.

William Gowan, another retired Hinds County circuit judge who has worked as a senior status judge, said in the state courts’ news release that Hilburn was “a public servant who could identify with the public.”

“He never tried to impress people with being a judge,” Gowan said.


The newest judge to the Rhode Island Superior Court was sworn in Saturday.

Democratic Gov. Dan McKee presided over the swearing in of R. David Cruise, a longtime political operative and state senator, at the Boys & Girls Club location in Cumberland.

McKee, a former Cumberland mayor who has known Cruise for years, said in a statement that he’s an “honest, fair and thoughtful leader who brings decades of legal and government experience to the bench.”

Cruise is a former state senator and Cumberland town councilor. In recent years, he’s served as former Gov. Gina Raimondo’s director of legislative affairs, former administrative magistrate with the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and chief of staff to the Rhode Island Senate, among other posts, according to McKee’s office.

In the 1990s, Cruise worked in the commerce department under President Bill Clinton and chief of staff to former Governor Bruce Sundlun. In the 1980s, he was a state senator and before that served on the Cumberland Town Council.

Cruise, who graduated from Providence College and the Suffolk University School of Law, replaces former Superior Court Judge Bennett Gallo, who retired in February.

The Rhode Island Superior Court has 22 judges and five magistrates. It handles both civil and criminal matters.


New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has appointed a judge to the state Court of Appeals to fill a vacancy created by Justice Julie J. Vargas’ appointment to the state Supreme Court.

The state’s 4th Judicial District Chief Judge Gerald E. Baca was appointed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals on Friday.

“Judge Baca has extensive experience on all sides of criminal and civil litigation as well as a diverse and rigorous background on the bench,” said Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, in a statement. “Our state Court of Appeals will greatly benefit from his decades of judicious and exemplary practice as an attorney and jurist.”

Baca, a New Mexico native, has presided over criminal cases in the district court that serves the counties of Guadalupe, Mora and San Miguel since 2013.

“I’m so excited and looking forward to doing this work,” Baca said. “But at the same time, a little saddened because I’ve been here in my hometown serving my community. It’s hard to leave hoping that I’ve done a good job but looking forward to being able to do good things for the people of New Mexico and the Court of Appeals.”

Baca, 59, will now be one of 10 judges tasked with reviewing appeals from the state’s lower courts.

New Mexico Court of Appeals judges serve eight-year terms and must be retained by at least 57% of voters at the end of each term, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Baca, a registered Democrat, will have to win the 2022 primary and general elections to remain on the Court of Appeals, the newspaper reported. This is Baca’s third gubernatorial appointment.

Former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson appointed Baca to the 4th Judicial District seat in 2007. Baca then lost his job in an election the following year.

In 2013, former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Baca to the 4th Judicial District again. Baca was elected to remain in his post in 2014.


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