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Masunaga sworn in as District Judge

Judge Margaret Masunaga thanks Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald during her swearing in ceremony. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Judge Margaret Masunaga thanks Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald during her swearing in ceremony, (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

Margaret Masunaga is the island’s newest judge.

Masunaga was sworn in Tuesday as Third Circuit District Court judge by Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

After the oath of office, she was helped into her robes for the first time by husband Gail and daughters Colette and Jana.

The ceremony for the former Hawaii County deputy corporation counsel was witnessed by several dozen family and friends, as well as at least 15 judiciary colleagues and an over-flowing crowd in the courthouse courtyard.

Recktenwald noted that District Court often is known as ‘The People’s Court,’ because of it’s high volume of cases – both civil and criminal.

Typically, District Court is the place where small claims, landlord-tenant disputes and traffic violations are heard. Judges can have up to 100 cases on their calendar each day, including many in which people represent themselves.

Masunaga is prepared for the work load, with 27 years in the legal field. She admitted she coveted the bench early in life and pointed to her parents’ time in World War II internment camps as her motivation to seek justice.


Justice Mark Recktenwald administers the oath of office. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

During her brief remarks, Masunaga said she was honored and humbled to wear the robes and vowed to “work very, very hard.”

Third Circuit Court Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra offered the support of the Hawaii State Trial Judges Association.

“You will soon discover the life of a judge can often be quite lonely and filled with questions. As a judge, you must be careful about who you associate with and whether that person has a case pending before you or whether that person wants your opinion as a judge on a community issue,” Ibarra said. “At the end of the day, after hearing a tough case or dealing with a lengthy calendar, you may need to vent or even discuss a lengthy issue, you may have to ask yourself, ‘What do I do, what can I do or who do I talk to?’ These concerns can be discussed with your fellow judges of the trial judges association. We are all willing to help, whether it’s to discuss a legal issue or commensurate with you.”

Masunaga was appointed Oct. 10 by Recktenwald after Joseph Florendo announced his retirement. Florendo was the Big Island’s longest-serving judge, racking up 28 years on the bench.

Masunaga officially became a district judge upon confirmation by the state Senate in an Oct. 23 special session. The vote was unanimous.

“Masunaga is noted to have the ability to carefully listen, to critically analyze and to effectively communicate ideas,” said Dr. Jackie Young, who serves on the state’s Judicial Selection Commission.

“She is known to work well with others and is always regarded as a leader,” she said. “The commission believes her people skills and her legal skills in combination provide a solid foundation to become an excellent jurist.”

During the ceremony, Masunaga was also lauded by Hawaii County Bar Association president Christopher Schlueter, West Hawaii Bar Association vice presidentPeter Olson and Hawaii State Bar Association vice president Jodi Lei Kimura Yi.

Among her gifts was a Kate Spade handbag / satchel, which Recktenwald said would be handy to ferry briefs to and from work.

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Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald and Third Circuit Court Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

One Response to “Masunaga sworn in as District Judge”

  1. Kathleen J. England says:

    Judge Masunaga has many mainland professional colleagues who heartily endorsed her unanimous selection as Hawaii’s newest judge. Having worked on many committees and issues with Judge Masunaga through our bar association activities over the past twenty years, we know how remarkable she is–a diligent, hardworking, smart, educated,experienced, fearless, yet humble and compassionate person–characteristics which will serve her well on the bench and radiate justice from her courtroom.

    Kathleen J. England (Former President, State Bar of Nevada, 2009-2010)


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