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2020 Jurist of the Year and Judiciary Employees Honored

Posted on Oct 21, 2020 in Featured News, News & Reports, Press Releases


Close-up of First Circuit Chief Judge R. Mark Browning, standing in front of the courtroom bench.

First Circuit Chief Judge R. Mark Browning, selected as the 2020 Jurist of the Year by Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. Photo courtesy of Grass Shack Productions.

HONOLULU – First Circuit Chief Judge R. Mark Browning was presented with the 2020 Jurist of the Year Award by Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, at the Hawaii State Judiciary’s Statewide Incentive Awards Ceremony on October 21.

“Judge Browning has displayed exceptional judicial competence in many different ways,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald. “As a probate judge, he utilizes both his vast knowledge of the law and his understanding of the underlying emotional and family dynamics, effectively resolving complex disputes.

“He has been an outstanding leader of the First Circuit, especially in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Judge Browning’s leadership style of grace, gratitude and courage has enabled him to address unprecedented challenges with a clear and sensible approach, building trust and confidence among fellow judges, employees, and the bar, and bringing them together to collaboratively solve problems. He has been a strong supporter of innovative programs such as Community Outreach Court, and a mentor to countless other judges,” he added.

The Jurist of the Year is selected annually by the Chief Justice from nominations submitted by Hawaii attorneys and Judiciary personnel. The 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.

Chief Judge Browning first joined the Judiciary in 1995 as a per diem judge. In June 1997 he was appointed as a District Family Court Judge, and in May 2010 as a Circuit Court Judge. In March 2011 he became the Deputy Chief Judge of the Family Court. He has been the Chief Judge of the First Circuit since April 2017.

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): Debbie Choo, Circuit Court Clerk III, Support & Operations Branch, Kona and Kamuela, Third Circuit (Hawaii island).

Meritorious Service Award: Karen Hemans, Court Administrator II, Court & Operational Support Services Division, Second Circuit (Maui County).

Group Meritorious Service Award:
•  Fifth Circuit (Kauai) Drug Court Team: Probation Officers Ro Kaing, Ikaika Macabeo, Rachel Coyaso, and Certified Substance Abuse Counselor Maile Murray.
•  First Circuit (Oahu) Kapolei Family Court Bailiff Unit: Adeline Fontanilla, Wilfredo Cacas Jr., Roberta Downey, David Gomes, Harrison Gomez, Amy Harada, Dana Kaheaku, Leslie Kaolulo, Ryan Miyashiro, Jazlynn Manuel, Daphne Rhoades, Erin Sanidad, Wendy Spallone, Justo Jose A. Torres III, and Richard Tuason.

Spirit of the Judiciary Award: Lisa Rosile, Law Library Technician and Jury Clerk, Kona, Third Circuit; Tammy Kincaid, Section Supervisor, Traffic Violations Bureau, Second Circuit; and Chontel Eugenio, Judicial Clerk I, Traffic Operations Branch, Waimea, Third Circuit.

Certificate of Commendation: Kristina Kanekoa, Judicial Clerk III, Court Support & Operations, Legal Documents Branch, District Civil, Hilo, Third Circuit and Nancy Ralston, Planner in the Office of the Administrative Director of the Courts, Judiciary Administration.

Group Certificate of Commendation: Keahuolu Courthouse Facility Crew, Third Circuit: David Arnado, Morgan Dacalio, Nalei Furtado-Piko, Chelsea Kane, Karl Medeiros, Betty Jean Naeole, Martin Orlando, Joanie Perreira, and Dennis Tysall.


For more information, contact the Communications and Community Relations Office at 808-539-4909 or via email at

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