My own private Aiona

July 28th, 2010

Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, the leading Republican candidate for governor, has taken exception to former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s talking point that his rivals for governor lack private-sector experience.

Aiona, a former judge, was a private legal consultant before becoming lieutenant governor:

Mufi Hannemann’s comments are incorrect, and the record must be made clear on this matter.

I have not only worked in the private sector, but I have also owned my own business.

It is telling that his false assertion came when he was trying to promote himself. His proposals show he has more to learn when it comes to running state government.

Aiona famously retired from the bench at 43 because he said he did not make enough money.

Ken Kobayashi, our man at the courts, wrote this story in November 1998:

The highly acclaimed judge who was the first to be in charge of the state’s Drug Court program will be retiring at the end of the year because of what he says is an inadequate salary for state judges.

James Aiona, 43, earns $86,780 a year as a circuit court judge. He said he doesn’t want to quit, but felt he had no choice financially because of the level of pay and Hawaii’s high cost of living.

“I can no longer ask my wife (Vivian) and four children (ages 6 to 15) to continue to make the kind of personal sacrifices that would allow me to remain on the bench,” he said.

Aiona said he believes he can earn more money as a mediator, arbitrator and consultant with the firm Dispute Prevention Resolution, which he will join after leaving the bench on Dec. 30.

14 Responses to “My own private Aiona”

  1. ohiaforest3400:

    Mufi’s blather aside, what is Duke claiming for private sector experience? Four years as a private judge? If that worked so well, why’d he go back to the public sector? And who, other than the estimable Ken Kobayashi, gave Aiona “high acclaim”? He ain’t too bright, he’s a bad sport (ask anyone who’s played in rec leagues least against him or seen him go ballistic as a youth coach), as Corporation Counsel’s litigation chief he rolled over to Judicial Selection Commission Chair and plaintiffs’ attorney Gerard Jervis prior to his appointment as a judge, his tenure in Family Court was marked as much for calling juveniles out as anything else, he claims to have “started” drug court when he only happens to be the first judge assigned to it, and he did exactly — WHAT — as LG?

  2. Ken Conklin:

    Ethnic Hawaiians who are state government executives, legislators, or judges have an obvious and very severe conflict of interest when it comes to supporting the Akaka bill and especially when it comes time to divide up the lands, resources, and jurisdictional authority of Hawaii between the Akaka tribe and the State of Hawaii. Ethnic Hawaiians who exercise government authority would be in the position of taking resources owned by all of us and giving those resources to themselves and their blood brotherhood based on nothing but race. The divisiveness and far-reaching consequences of the Akaka bill are explored in the 302-page book “Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State” which can be found in the library or at

    There is at least an ethical duty, and perhaps a legally enforceable obligation, for any ethnic Hawaiian who is a federal, state, or county government official to recuse himself from (i.e., step away and not participate in) any voting or decision-making related to supporting the Akaka bill, or especially implementing the bill after it passes.

    The duty for ethnic Hawaiian officials of the state government to recuse themselves on matters related to the Akaka tribe is exactly at the same level, and for the same reasons, as the duty of a judge to recuse himself from hearing or ruling on a lawsuit involving a company owned by his own family. It is the same as the duty of a legislator or city council member or county department head to recuse himself from voting on a bill, or issuing permits, to construct a highway and place an exit ramp right next to a large parcel of land owned by his family where the family is planning to build a shopping center.

    If the Akaka bill passes, then the one issue that will take up most of the time of state and county decision-makers is how to divide up government lands, resources, and jurisdiction. The chopping up of Hawaii’s public resources will be a lengthy process with no finality, just as lawsuits between Indian tribes and their neighboring states and communities have been ongoing for two centuries. The Akaka bill places no time limit on demands for compensation for historical grievances going all the way back to Captain Cook’s arrival in 1778, and imposes no deadline for a global or final settlement resolving all issues. An initial massive division of assets will be followed by decades of further demands, transfers, and lawsuits.

    The Governor has authority over many, or even all, departments. He would need to recuse himself so frequently, from so many matters, that no ethnic Hawaiian should serve as Governor, county Mayor, of member of the Legislature if it seems likely that the Akaka bill will pass. I know this sounds like racial discrimination; but consider the racial conflict of interest. There’s nothing wrong with ethnic Hawaiians serving in government positions at lower levels such as teachers, police officers, fire fighters, accountants, etc.; as long as they are not in high-level decision-making positions where they can hand over hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands, or hundreds of millions of dollars, to their own tribe.

  3. Kolea:


    Did it occur to you that non-Hawaiians might also have a “conflict of interest” with how the Akaka Bill might be implemented? As settler-occupiers, maybe it is in our interest to deny native Hawaiians have any special claim to Hawaii and that “all Americans” should have equal claims to the islands?

    So maybe no non-Hawaiians should be allowed to “serve as Governor, county Mayor, or member of the Legislature if it seems likely that the Akaka bill will pass.”

    But I must say, it is quite enlightened you are willing to allow Hawaiians to serve “in government positions at lower levels.” It kinda reminds me of the Golden Years, the “Territorial Years” so many “kamaaina” are nostalgic for. When the Republicans bestowed patronage jobs on Hawaiians of exactly the sort you advise, lower level ones, in exchange for votes against the uppity Japanese Democrats.

    How silly to think your remarks might be regarded as racist. But I guess some people are so wrapped up in their “political correctness” that they cannot see the benign intent behind your paternalism. Me? I get nostalgic for Alex Anderson’s hapa-haole music, golf at Oahu Country Club when it was exclusive and dancing on the rooftop of the Alexander Young Hotel.

  4. Hodad:

    Aiona has zero for a record ANYWHERE. Lingle acted as if he didn’t exist. And for for being “in business” as a private judge, I laugh out loud.

  5. juanbobo:

    Seems the only bad sport is ohiaforest3400…

    Most people would like our lawmakers to not only have public and executive experience (as the case for governor) but private sector experience as well — seeing how it is the private sector and our small businesses who are responsible for creating jobs. Hawai`i can’t afford Abercrombie or Mufi.

  6. From Kaneohe:

    As LG, Duke has helped Hawai`i’s families and promoted Hawai`i’s small businesses. He was the most active LG in Hawai`i ever–he helped to expand STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education for children and young adults and has pushed for tax relief for families and small businesses. He has fought against illegal drug use and underage drinking, and started a clean energy initiative. Duke has done so much to help people and stepped up to the plate to serve Hawai`i’s people.

  7. Konkhim:

    Ken – Whats the big deal.. Your kind has been doing this for the past 200 years

  8. waialuahaole:

    Ohia, I believe Duke is pointing out that he owned a firm where he worked as an attorney, arbitrator, mediator, hearings officer, part-time judge and professional consultant. He opened the business in January 1999. That’s his example of private-sector experience and small-business ownership.

    I would imagine that he saw the immense opportunity in serving the people of Hawaii as lieutenant governor and perhaps he and his family reassessed where they were four years later, as a family, and if the terms of engagement had changed sufficiently to allow such an effort. At least, that scenario is certainly plausible and easy to imagine.

    Duke was the 1st administrative judge and primary architect of that Drug Court Program — the program that uses drug rehab to keep non-violent offenders out of jail. I have read that it had an 85% success rate at cutting recidivism.

    The position of LG is, by its nature, one of second-dog to the governor and often does not result in many substantive “achievements.” This is part a function of the job itself, part a function of media coverage that reduces visibility of the LG’s role in any actual achievements, and part a function of how the governor’s office chooses to operate (and limit/expand the playing field of the LG).

    What’s amazing is that despite all these limitations, Duke has figured so prominently in healthy Hawaii initiatives, being a driving force behind the state’s clean energy initiatives, serving as an integral role for technology education for children (STEM),

  9. Michael:

    Politicians make less than many CEOs and take a
    whole bunch of Malarkey from the public.
    As governor, free rent, all travel expenses paid.
    I still see no reason for being governor.
    Except when in quicksand, you get to
    stand on the People shoulders from sinking.
    lingle did.

    Is he thinking he will make a difference?
    Let me check my crystal ball.
    Says nothing. UM?

  10. stanley:

    Duke became a Judge because of connex. He became LG because of connex. Otherwise, I don’t know any attorneys who respect his legal ability, experience (especially in civil cases) and intellect, all of which you need to be a successful arbitrator/mediator. Attorneys and judges that have transitioned successfully to ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) make plenty of money–more than Judges and most law partners. It is also a lot less stressful and you put in less hours. However, if you’re intellectually challenged, parties in a legal dispute ain’t gonna choose you. So, Aiona claiming he has “private” company/firm experience is a joke.

  11. Michael:

    “James Aiona, 43, earns $86,780 a year as a circuit court judge. He said he doesn’t want to quit, but felt he had no choice financially because of the level of pay and Hawaii’s high cost of living.”~ddpledge

    If one cannot live on his past salary, how can one live on his future salary, IF elected governor? If it’s more money he is seeking, being Governor will assure he can make side deals and pocket change over dealings under the table. If it’s more money he is seeking, HE is definitely not for the People of Hawaii, that he wants to be governor. He works for himself and family. aiona pushes for robotics in catching Military bids on robots that will be used as weapons. I see no other uses for robots but for this distructive purpose.

    lingle taught him well in silence on how to be greedy.
    lingle cost the People of Hawaii alot of money but she
    came out ahead in secret deals. Her defense in the budget
    showed she was hiding something when she called “Shoddy”

    Any elected governor knowing the high cost of living should
    find a way to lower this cost and make if affordable for
    people to live here and Tourist to visit here. Price of paradise
    should not be at a high cost that our leaders come out on top.
    Standing on our shoulders while we sink in quicksand.
    I let no one step on me, lest a governor.

  12. ohiaforest3400:

    juanbobo: No, I’m the one with the memory, the one who knows from past experience (the best predictor of future behavior) what a phony, empty suit (and head) Duke really is.

    You and waialuahaole (whose remarks, to his/her credit, are far more civil than my own), seem to be drinking from a communal vat of Kool-Aid. The same talking points appear in both posts.

    As for Mr. Conklin, Kolea always says it best.

  13. Michael:

    “But I must say, it is quite enlightened you are willing to allow Hawaiians to serve “in government positions at lower levels.” It kinda reminds me of the Golden Years, the “Territorial Years” so many “kamaaina” are nostalgic for. When the Republicans bestowed patronage jobs on Hawaiians of exactly the sort you advise, lower level ones, in exchange for votes against the uppity Japanese Democrats.”

    What about uppity Japanese Democrats?

    Funny how the lemmings patronize each others comments.
    Sounds good but?

  14. Keoki:

    @ Ohia – Duke is a phony, empty suit? The man has been a family court judge, a circuit court judge, and lieutenant governor. Any one of these, by itself, is considered a significant accomplishment (let alone all three). Since you clearly consider yourself to be an intellectual superior of Duke, please don’t hesitate to regail us with your many personal and professional accomplishments.

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