Shanlyn Park ’91 confirmed in a bipartisan vote
The District of Hawaii has its first Native Hawaiian woman to serve on the federal bench as a district court judge. Shanlyn Park ’91 is a current state court judge and former federal public defender. She was nominated for the judgeship on September 27, and sat for her hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 4. She was confirmed on November 30.
“Judge Park’s unique combination of experience, tenacity and genuine kindness will be a huge asset to the federal bench,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson in a released statement. “We are excited to have her join us as our colleague in 2024.”
Park was confirmed on a bipartisan vote of 53-45. The lifetime appointment is particularly significant in terms of representation as Native Hawaiians comprise 21.8 percent of the population in the district where she will preside.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Park has been a state circuit court judge since 2021. She previously worked in private practice and at the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Hawaii. While a practicing attorney, she has also represented individuals on a pro bono basis, including cases of employee discrimination.
In a joint statement, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono applauded Park’s confirmation, saying she “led a distinguished career dedicated to public service.”
“She has exhibited a commitment to justice, fairness and impartiality throughout her career, and is highly qualified to serve on the U.S. District Court,” the senators said. “As the first Native Hawaiian woman to serve as a federal district court judge, Judge Park’s confirmation reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to building a federal judiciary that reflects the diversity of our communities.”
Park was the second Hawaii judge to be confirmed in November. The Senate also voted to confirm Micah Smith, a federal prosecutor, to a district court judgeship. Appointed under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, federal district court judges are nominated by the president, confirmed by the U.S. Senate and serve lifetime appointments upon good behavior.
Both Park and Smith fit into President Joe Biden’s broader goal of diversifying the federal judiciary.
“They have the legal acumen as well as the character and temperament required to fulfill the duties of US District Court judges,” Sen. Schatz (D-HI) said at the September 27 hearing. “It’s for these reasons that I’m proud to support their nominations to the federal bench.”
Park is expected to fill the seat currently held by U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi, who is expected to go on senior status in October 2024. “Judge Park’s credentials are impressive by any measure, Schatz said. “But the historic nature of her nomination should not be lost on anyone.”
Schatz added that Park has a commitment to equal justice and has spent two decades as a public defender “giving voice to those most in need.”
“She represented low-income defendants on a variety of complex cases, earning a reputation among colleagues and opposing counsel alike as a highly-skilled, compassionate and solutions-oriented attorney,” Schatz said. “And she has brought her integrity and sound judgment to the bench since becoming a state court judge in 2021.
Smith will fill the seat currently held by U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright, who will go on senior status in January.
Appointed under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, federal district court judges are nominated by the president, confirmed by the U.S. Senate and serve lifetime appointments upon good behavior.