On September 6, 2023, President Joe Biden nominated Judge Shanlyn A. S. Park to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. Judge Park currently serves as a state court judge on the First Circuit Court on Oahu. Judge Park has 20 years of experience as a public defender, having served as an assistant federal public defender in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Hawaii from 1997 to 2017. If confirmed, Park would become the only Native Hawaiian woman on the federal bench.
Judge Shanlyn Park was born in 1969 in Honolulu, Hawaii. She earned her B.A from Chaminade University of Honolulu in 1991 and her J.D from William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii in 1995.
After law school, Judge Park served as a law clerk to the Honorable Francis I. Yamashita, United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Hawaii, from 1995 to 1996. After clerking, Judge Park worked as an associate at Hisaka Stone & Goto from 1996 to 1997. Her work involved a variety of civil matters, including commercial disputes and insurance litigation.
From 1997 to 2017, Judge Park was an assistant federal defender and senior litigator at the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Hawaii. She represented indigent federal criminal defendants charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses, trying 10 misdemeanor and 10 felony jury trials to verdict. In addition to filing and arguing numerous motions and sentencing memorandums at the trial court level, Judge Park led appeals and argued several cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
In 2017, Judge Park returned to private practice and became a partner at McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP. During her time at one of Hawaii’s largest law firms, she focused on commercial disputes, as well as cases involving contested probate matters, real property disputes, insurance defense, and criminal defense at both the state and federal level. In 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii nominated Judge Park to serve on its Criminal Justice Panel beginning in 2021, allowing her to again represent indigent defendants. From 2017 to 2021, Judge Park also volunteered as an attorney for the state judiciary’s Access to Justice Commission.
In 2021, Judge Park joined Gallagher Kane Amai & Reyes as Of Counsel, continuing to focus her practice on commercial disputes, as well as cases involving contested probate matters, real property disputes, insurance defense, and criminal defense. Park drafted and argued pleadings, handled discovery in the civil cases and participated in settlements conferences and mediations.
Since December 2021, Judge Park has served as a Circuit Court Judge for the Oahu First Circuit, one of Hawaii’s four circuit courts. Governor David Ige nominated Judge Park in September 2021 for a ten-year term, and she was confirmed by the state Senate in October 2021. She took the oath of office in December 2021. Judge Park was first assigned to the Family Court Criminal Division, where she adjudicated domestic violence cases. While assigned to that division, she served as lead judge from December 2022 to May 2023. In June 2023, she was reassigned to the Criminal Division, where she adjudicates felony criminal matters. Over the course of her career, Judge Park has presided over 21 trials, including 17 when she was on the Family Court Criminal Division and four since she has been on the Circuit Court Criminal Division.
The following cases are representative of Judge Park’s judicial career:
1. In State of Hawaii v. Kameenui, the defendant was charged with felony assault in the second degree based on a physical altercation that caused injury to the complaining witness. The complaining witness was the ex-wife of the defendant’s son and the altercation occurred in the defendant’s home. Judge Park presided over pretrial hearings and the jury trial. After being presented with credible evidence that the defendant acted in self-defense, the jury returned a verdict on June 30, 2023, finding the defendant not guilty.
2. In State of Hawaii v. Tanaka, the defendant was charged with violating an order of protection. Claiming he had been given permission by the property owner, the defendant resided in a shed located within 100 feet of the complainant’s residence. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss for de minimis violation and a motion to dismiss based on insufficient evidence and lack of probable cause. Judge Park presided over an evidentiary hearing and heard testimony from several witnesses. She then determined that the alleged violation was not de minimis and that there was probable cause for the charge. She therefore denied the motions.
3. In State of Hawaii v. Esperago, the defendant was charged with three counts of violating an order for protection. The prosecution alleged that the defendant violated the distance requirement of the protection order. Judge Park presided over pretrial hearings. The defendant filed a motion to sever charges, arguing that the three counts in the complaint were based on factually separate and distinct conduct that allegedly occurred on three separate occasions and that, if tried together, the defendant would face undue prejudice. After hearing oral arguments, Judge Park denied the motion.
Professional Activities and Accolades
While a practicing attorney, Judge Park represented individuals on a pro bono basis. For example, she provided pro bono services to the plaintiff in Scutt v. Carbonaro CPAs n Mgmt Grp, CIV. NO. 20-00362 JMS-RT (D. Haw. Oct. 2, 2020) who claimed that his employer discriminated against him based on his religion and gender. From 2020 to 2021, she also provided pro bono services to an individual who needed assistance petitioning the probate court to be made the legal representative of his deceased sister’s estate. Judge Park received special recognition from the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii for providing pro bono services in 2021. Judge Park also received recognition from the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts Academy for outstanding service as a board member in 2017. The Academy is committed to providing an exemplary educational experience grounded in the Catholic and Christian values of its founding nuns for Hawaii’s girls and young women.