21°18′15″N 157°51′44″W / 21.304175°N 157.862334°W / 21.304175; -157.862334

United States District Court for the District of Hawaii
(D. Haw.)
LocationPrince Kuhio Federal Building
Appeals toNinth Circuit
EstablishedAugust 21, 1959
Chief JudgeDerrick Watson
Officers of the court
U.S. AttorneyClare E. Connors
U.S. MarshalWilliam Jessup (acting)

The United States District Court for the District of Hawaii (in case citations, D. Haw.) is the principal trial court of the United States Federal Court System in the state of Hawaii. The court's territorial jurisdiction encompasses the state of Hawaii and the territories of Midway Atoll, Wake Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, Baker Island, Howland Island, and Jarvis Island;[1][2] it also occasionally handles (jointly with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and the High Court of American Samoa) federal issues that arise in the territory of American Samoa, which has no local federal court or territorial court.[3] It is located at the Prince Kuhio Federal Building in downtown Honolulu, fronting the Aloha Tower and Honolulu Harbor. The court hears both civil and criminal cases as a court of law and equity. A branch of the district court is the United States Bankruptcy Court which also has chambers in the federal building. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over cases coming out of the District of Hawaii (except for patent claims and claims against the U.S. government under the Tucker Act, which are appealed to the Federal Circuit). The United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii represents the United States in all civil and criminal cases within her district.

As of January 3, 2022, the United States attorney is Clare E. Connors.[4]


When the Territory of Hawaii was formed in 1900, jurisdiction was placed in the Ninth Circuit. On March 18, 1959, when the District of Hawaii was formed, the district had two judgeships for the court. On July 10, 1984, a third judgeship was added, and a fourth was added on December 1, 1990.[5]

Current judges

As of January 31, 2024:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
13 Chief Judge Derrick Watson Honolulu 1966 2013–present 2022–present Obama
12 District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi Honolulu 1957 2010–present Obama
14 District Judge Jill Otake Honolulu 1973 2018–present Trump
15 District Judge Micah W. J. Smith Honolulu 1981 2024–present Biden
16 District Judge Shanlyn A. S. Park Honolulu 1969 beg. 2024 Biden
7 Senior Judge Alan Cooke Kay Honolulu 1932 1986–2000 1991–1999 2000–present Reagan
8 Senior Judge David Alan Ezra San Antonio, Texas[Note 1] 1947 1988–2012 1999–2005 2012–present Reagan
9 Senior Judge Helen W. Gillmor Honolulu 1942 1994–2009 2005–2009 2009–present Clinton
10 Senior Judge Susan Oki Mollway Honolulu 1950 1998–2015 2009–2015 2015–present Clinton
11 Senior Judge John Michael Seabright Honolulu 1959 2005–2024 2015–2022 2024–present G.W. Bush
  1. ^ Judge Ezra has sat with the Western District of Texas since taking senior status.

Former judges

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Cyrus Nils Tavares HI 1902–1976 1960–1972[Note 1] 1960–1961 1972–1976 Eisenhower death
2 Martin Pence HI 1904–2000 1961–1974 1961–1974 1974–2000 Kennedy retirement
3 Samuel Pailthorpe King HI 1916–2010 1972–1984 1974–1984 1984–2010 Nixon death
4 Dick Yin Wong HI 1920–1978 1975–1978 Ford death
5 Walter Heen HI 1928–present 1981[Note 2] Carter nomination withdrawn
6 Harold Fong HI 1938–1995 1982–1995 1984–1991 Reagan death
  1. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on January 10, 1961, confirmed by the Senate on September 21, 1961, and received commission on September 22, 1961.
  2. ^ Recess appointment made by President Carter; President Reagan later withdrew the nomination before the Senate could act.

Chief judges

Chief judges have administrative responsibilities with respect to their district court. Unlike the Supreme Court, where one justice is specifically nominated to be chief, the office of chief judge rotates among the district court judges. To be chief, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge.

A vacancy is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years, or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position.

When the office was created in 1948, the chief judge was the longest-serving judge who had not elected to retire, on what has since 1958 been known as senior status, or declined to serve as chief judge. After August 6, 1959, judges could not become or remain chief after turning 70 years old. The current rules have been in operation since October 1, 1982.

Succession of seats

Judges of the United States District Court for the Territory of Hawaii

Prior to 1959, the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii was an Article IV tribunal in the Territory of Hawaii. The following is a partial list of Judges for that court.

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Morris M. Estee HI 1833–1903 1900–1903[6] McKinley death
2 Sanford B. Dole HI 1844–1926 1903–1915[7] T. Roosevelt retirement
3 George Washington Woodruff HI 1864–1934 1909–1910 Taft resigned
4 Alexander George Morison Robertson HI 1867–1947 1910–1911[8] Taft resigned
5 Charles Frederic Clemons HI 1871–1925 1911–1916[9] Taft resigned
6 Horace Worth Vaughan HI 1867–1922 1916–1922[10] Wilson death
7 Joseph Poindexter HI 1869–1951 1917–1924 Wilson retirement
8 John T. DeBolt HI 1857–1944 1922–1926 Harding term expired
9 William T. Rawlins HI 1877–1928 1924–1928 Coolidge deceased
10 William Barker Lymer HI 1882–1939 1926–1934[11] Coolidge retirement
11 Edward K. Massee HI 1871–1960 1929–1935 Coolidge term expired
12 Seba Cormany Huber HI 1871–1944 1934–1940[12] F. Roosevelt retirement
13 Edward Minor Watson Jr. HI 1874–1938 1935–1938[13] F. Roosevelt died
14 Delbert E. Metzger HI 1875–1967 1939–1952 F. Roosevelt term expired
15 Ingram Stainback HI 1883–1961 1940–1943 F. Roosevelt resigned
16 Joseph Frank McLaughlin HI 1908–1962 1943–1959 F. Roosevelt statehood
17 Jon Wiig HI 1906–1987 1952–1959 Truman statehood

Succession of seats

"Recorder of Deeds" for the Territory of Palmyra Island

Since 1962, the court's clerk has filed or recorded the deeds and other land title documents for land located in the federal Territory of Palmyra Island, under 48 U.S.C. § 644a, Executive Order No. 10967[14] and Order No. 2862 of the Secretary of the Interior.[15]

See also


  1. ^ 28 U.S.C. § 91.
  2. ^ 48 U.S.C. § 644a.
  3. ^ https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-1124T GAO (U.S. Government Accountability Office. AMERICAN SAMOA: Issues Associated with Some Federal Court Options. September 18, 2008. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  4. ^ "Clare E. Connors Sworn in as United States Attorney" (Press release). Honolulu, Hawaii: U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Hawaii. January 3, 2022.
  5. ^ "History of the Federal Judiciary: U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii". Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
  6. ^ Oscar Tully Shuck (1901). History of the bench and bar of California: being biographies of many remarkable men, a store of humorous and pathetic recollections, accounts of important legislation and extraordinary cases, comprehending the judicial history of the state. The Commercial printing house. pp. 827–828.
  7. ^ "Dole, Sanford Ballard office record". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
  8. ^ Van Dyke, Jon M. (December 31, 2007). Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawai_i?, Page 84. ISBN 9780824832117. "All about Hawaii: The Recognized Book of Authentic Information About Hawaii by Thos. G. Thrum. 1910". 1909.|
  9. ^ "Statewide County HI Archives Biographies.....Clemons, Charles Frederic October 9, 1871. The Story of Hawaii and Its Builders, published by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin Ltd., Territory of Hawaii, 1925 Author: Edited by George F. Nellist". Krauss, Bob (August 1994). Johnny Wilson: First Hawaiian Democrat By Bob Krauss. ISBN 9780824815776.|
  10. ^ Ben R. Guttery (March 2, 2008). Representing Texas. p. 153. ISBN 978-1-4196-7884-4.
  11. ^ Judge William Barker Lymer, Honolulu Star Bulletin, Friday, April 14, 1939, Page 1, Col 8. Honolulu Advertiser Friday, April 14, 1939, Page 1
  12. ^ Judge William Barker Lymer, Honolulu Advertiser Friday, April 14, 1939, Page 1. "Delbert E. Metzger, Hawai'i's Liberal Judge by H. Brett Melendy, page 53" (PDF). "HUBER, SEBA CORMANY, Index to the Honolulu Advertiser & Star Bulletin 1929–1969, 1871–1944 Honorary LLD conferred on judge by Lebanon Valley College, Pa S 6/8/36 p1, Dies at home S 8/16/44 p1".|
  13. ^ "Delbert E. Metzger, Hawai'i's Liberal Judge By H. BRETT MELENDY, The Hawaiian Journal of History, vol. 35 (2001), pg. 53" (PDF). "Judge Edward M Watson 1874-1938, Honolulu Star-Bulletin Honolulu, Hawaii 24 Sep 1938, Sat Page 4". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. September 24, 1938. p. 4.|
  14. ^ Executive Order No. 10967, Palmyra Island Administration, October 10, 1961, 26 F.R. 9667.
  15. ^ Secretary of the Interior Order No. 2862, Palmyra Island Land Recordation, March 19, 1962, F. R. Doc. 62-2736.