Governor Ige Appoints Three First Circuit Court (Island of O‘ahu) Judges

Gov. David Ige today announced three appointments to the First Circuit Court (Island of Oʻahu) as follows:

Rowena A. Somerville – 50, Attorney, Hearings Officer, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, is appointed to the First Circuit Court (Island of Oʻahu), to fill the vacancy left when former Circuit Judge Derrick H. M. Chan was elevated to the position of Associate Judge for the Intermediate Court of Appeals in April 2017.

Somerville has been an attorney in Hawaiʻi for over twenty years, dedicating her entire legal career to public service. She is currently an Administrative Hearings Officer at the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and has presided over one hundred special education due process hearings. She previously served as a Deputy Attorney General in the Land and Transportation Division and as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu. She began her career as a law clerk at the Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission and followed that by a clerkship at the District Court of the First Circuit.

Somerville earned her law degree from the University of Hawaiʻi, William S. Richardson School of Law and was admitted to the Hawaii State Bar in 1996.

“I am deeply honored and humbled that Gov. Ige has nominated me to serve as a First Circuit Court judge. It has been a privilege to serve the community for over twenty years as an attorney, and I am looking forward to the confirmation process,” said Somerville.

Matthew J. Viola – 55, Judge, District/Family Court of the First Circuit, is appointed to the First Circuit Court (Island of Oʻahu), to fill the vacancy created by the vacancy left by the retirement of former Circuit Judge Dexter D. Del Rosario in December 2016.

Judge Viola is currently the lead judge of the domestic (divorce) division of the Family Court, First Circuit Court of the State of Hawaiʻi. Since his appointment as a family court judge in August 2010, he has served as the presiding judge of the Juvenile Drug Court of the First Circuit. Prior to his appointment as a family court judge, he was in private practice, primarily handling employment law and general civil litigation cases. While working as a sole practitioner, he served as a part-time family court per diem judge since 2002 and as a contract attorney for the City and County of Honolulu Ethics Commission since 2003. From 1995 to 2002, he was an attorney with Simons, Wilson & Viola.

Viola attended Williams College, where he received his B.A. degree, magna cum laude. After attending Stanford Law School, where he graduated with distinction in 1991, he worked as an associate attorney with a San Francisco law firm for two years before moving to Hawaiʻi and clerking for Hawaiʻi Supreme Court Justice Paula Nakayama from 1993 to 1995.

“I am honored and humbled by Gov. Ige’s nomination. I look forward to the opportunity to serve the people of the State of Hawaiʻi,” said Viola.

Paul B. K. Wong – 49, Judge, District Court of the First Circuit, is appointed to the First Circuit Court (Island of Oʻahu), to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of former Circuit Judge Karl K. Sakamoto in December 2016.

Judge Wong was appointed to the District Court of the First Circuit on May 29, 2012. Prior to his appointment, he was a Partner with the law firm of McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon, LLP, and a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu.

Wong is a graduate of the University of Southern California and Boston College Law School.

“I am deeply grateful to Gov. Ige, and his administration for the privilege and trust to serve as a Circuit Court Judge. I look forward to discussing my qualifications with the Senate, and if confirmed, will commit all my energies and skills to be deserving of the honor,” said Wong.

“All three of these appointees understand that legal issues have a real and lasting impact on our people and in our communities. They are thoughtful, innovative and deeply committed to equitable problem solving. I know they will exercise patience and dedicate the time needed to assure fair administration of justice,” said Gov. Ige.

The process used to select these appointees is the same process used in prior selections and will be used whenever Gov. Ige makes judicial appointments. Gov. Ige personally interviewed each candidate, received input from retired Hawai‘i State Supreme Court Associate Justice James Duffy, who reviewed the qualifications of the nominees and solicited feedback on each from the law community, and reviewed testimony submitted by the public. The Senate confirmation also allows opportunities for the general public to weigh in.

All three appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

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