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2019 Jurist of the Year and Judiciary Employees Honored


HONOLULU – First Circuit Court Judge Gary W.B. Chang was presented with the 2019 Jurist of the Year Award by Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, at the Hawaii State Judiciary’s Statewide Incentive Awards Ceremony on September 30.

“Judge Chang is an outstanding trial judge, mentor and leader, who is a tireless proponent of professionalism in the courtroom,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald. “His role in the launch of electronic filing for circuit court civil cases across the state has been vital to the project’s realization. The many challenges he encountered were faced head on with a positive mind-set and a strong determination to work collaboratively to ensure the success of the new system.”

The Jurist of the Year is selected annually by the Chief Justice from nominations submitted by Hawaii attorneys and Judiciary personnel. The Jurist of the Year Award recognizes a full-time trial judge who exhibits exceptional judicial competence, evidenced by decisional quality; significant extra-judicial contributions to the administration of justice; and active participation in public service to the community at large.

Judge Chang was appointed to the Circuit Court of the First Circuit on June 1, 1999 and reappointed on June 1, 2009. He presides over civil cases as well as the Land and Tax Appeal Court. Prior to his appointment to the Circuit Court, he was a partner with the law firm of Matsui Chung Sumida & Chang. He previously served as a deputy attorney general with the State of Hawaii Department of the Attorney General. Judge Chang received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976 from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and law degree from the University of Gonzaga Law School in Washington in 1979. He is a graduate of McKinley High School and was inducted into the McKinley Hall of Honor in 2013. 

In addition to honoring the Jurist of the Year, the Hawaii State Judiciary presented individual and group awards to employees who have distinguished themselves through exceptional service and accomplishments. The recipients of this year’s awards are:

Distinguished Service Award (the Judiciary’s highest incentive award): Yee Nin Evelyne Luk, Court Administrator, Honolulu District Court Legal Documents Branch, First Circuit (Oahu); and Denise Villanova, Court Administrator, Court & Operational Support Services Branch, Second Circuit (Maui, Molokai, Lanai).

Meritorious Service Award: Danette Fujii, Court Documents Clerk, Court and Operational Support Services Division, Legal Documents Branch, Fifth Circuit (Kauai).

Spirit of the Judiciary Award: Mary Cook, Clerk IV, Juvenile Client Services Branch, Specialized Services Section, Kids First, Family Court – Kapolei, First Circuit (Oahu); Lori Tamanaha, Social Worker IV / TRO Court Officer, Adult Client Services Branch / TRO unit, Family Court – Kapolei, First Circuit (Oahu); Dawn Fernandez, Circuit Court Clerk, Family Court – Kona, Third Circuit (Hawaii island).

Certificate of Commendation: Natalie Ragmat, Judicial Clerk V, Honolulu District Court Legal Documents Branch 2, First Circuit (Oahu); Jamie Takimoto, Judicial Assistant, Circuit Court Division 4 – Kona (Hawaii island); Amber Maile Telles, Secretary, Office of the Deputy Chief Court Administrator, Fifth Circuit (Kauai). 

Group Certificate of Commendation:  Hookele Court Navigation Program for the Circuit, District, and Family Courts of the First Circuit (Oahu): Constance  “Ui” Arroyo, John  Hausler, Glori-Jean Kamealoha, Nicole Kaumaea, Grace Ono, Elizabeth Ramirez, Dollyann Sione, Sonia Soriano, Jonina Tagalog, Ann Takeuchi, and Adele Marie Tangjian.

One Response to “2019 Jurist of the Year and Judiciary Employees Honored”

  1. Chris Castaic says:

    Judge Chang does not deserve this recognition. While he may have been a part of the electronic filing of civil case documents, he did so at the expense of deciding on cases. He has drawn out several straightforward cases for years.

    One example is Civil No. 13-1-2981-11 GWBC: Peer News LLC vs City and County of Honolulu. The state Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the names of police officers found guilty of misconduct are a matter of public record.

    It remanded the case to Judge Chang to review 12 files of police officers guilty of misconduct to determine the amount of information to be released.

    Judge Chang has not made any decision on the case after more than four years. He has held only one hearing on Jan 6, 2020 after much pressure. Still no progress or decision.

    Further, his public and private comments to counsel show a disturbing sympathy toward police officers and keeping “embarrassing” information about them from public disclosure.

    Chief Justice Recktenwald needs to remove Judge Chang from this case and replace him with a more independent and speedier judge.

    Judge Chang has held the public’s right to know in contempt, and with contempt.


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