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Judge Ibarra sworn in for third 10-year term


Third Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra signs the oath as his son-in-law Neal and Chief Justice Ronald Moon look on Monday, May 4 in Keauhou. ( photo by Karin Stanton)

Third Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra signs the oath as his son-in-law Neal and Chief Justice Ronald Moon look on Monday, May 4 in Keauhou. ( photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton/ Contributing Editor

Judge Ronald Ibarra was sworn in for the third term Monday, May 4 as the Third Circuit Chief Judge.

Ronald T.Y. Moon, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii, joined the West Hawaii Bar Association’s annual Law Day celebration to conduct the ceremony.

Ibarra, who presides over Civil Court and Drug Court in West Hawaii, will serve another 10 years as the judiciary leader on the Big Island – which comprises the Third Circuit.

“You in West Hawaii, and I truly mean this, are fortunate to have a leader and jurist like Judge Ibarra who is completely dedicated to the mission of the judiciary,” Moon said. 

A retention ceremony is not as big a deal as the initial appointment of a judge, Moon said, and typically are conducted in his office with just family members as witnesses. Ibarra, however, deserved the special recognition at Monday’s gathering of fellow judges, attorneys, judiciary staff, family and friends, he said.

He credited Ibarra with servicing in almost every capacity – family, drug, civil, district and circuit courts. 

Ibarra, 62, previously served in the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard, eventually retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He was joined at the ceremony by his wife Su, their daughter Susan, and son-in-law Neal.

As the judiciary’s mission has expanded from adjudicating cases to include prevention, rehabilitation and other areas, Ibarra has incorporated those responsibilities.

Moon said he is very concerned budget cuts in the next few years will narrow the focus of the judiciary.

“We’ll go back to our initial mission and that is what is right and what is wrong and that’s it,” Moon said, cutting out the many other benefits to society.

Moon also said he appreciated Ibarra’s length of service. 

“He is, I predict, going to break the record a longest serving judge in the state of Hawaii,” Moon said. 

(Editor’s note: has not yet confirmed the current holder of the state’s longest serving judge. Anyone know?)

Ibarra said he less focused on records and personal achievement and more focused on the people in his community.

“I see people coming back in a good way,” Ibarra said. “After I’ve sentenced them, they go on to live a law-abiding life. That’s really heartwarming to me.”

Among the biggest challenges Ibarra sees in the next decade are the social problems that come along with a growing population.

As more people from different cultures move to Hawaii, Ibarra said, “it’ll be the social issues. You will inevitably have disagreements.”

Kona attorney Bob Kim said he has great admiration for Ibarra.

“His commitment over the decades is just remarkable,” he said. “He’s the more senior judge in the entire state and with all his experience, we’re just very lucky to have him.”

Lani Ng also was recognized for her work as Ibarra’s clerk for nearly 20 years. She joked with overtime, she probably has worked for the judge for 25 years.

The West Hawaii Bar Association also handed out four scholarships to graduating seniors. All four students attend Konawaena High School and were rewarded for their essays on this year’s Law Day theme – “A Legacy of Liberty Celebrating Lincoln’s Bicentennial.” will be publishing each of the essays in coming days … Stay tuned.

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