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Sabrina McKenna

Sabrina S. McKenna
Justice of the
Supreme Court of Hawaii
Assumed office
February 16, 2011
Nominated by Neil Abercrombie
Preceded by Mark E. Recktenwald
Personal details
Born (1957-10-07) October 7, 1957
Tokyo, Japan
Children 3
Alma mater University of Hawaii at Manoa
Occupation Lawyer, Judge

Sabrina Shizue McKenna (born October 7, 1957) is a judge from the U.S. state of Hawaii. Since February 16, 2011, she has served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Legal and judicial service 2
  • Personal 3
  • References 4

Early life and education

McKenna was born on October 7, 1957, in Tokyo, Japan.[1] Her father died when she was 9 years old.[2] McKenna graduated from Yokota High School in Tokyo.[1]

McKenna attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she played on the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine women's basketball team.[2] She was one of the first beneficiaries of Title IX. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese.[2] McKenna then earned her Juris Doctor from the William S. Richardson School of Law.[2]

Legal and judicial service

McKenna was an associate at Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel until 1987, then served as general counsel to Otaka, Inc. until 1990. She became an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii Law School before being appointed a District Court judge on November 30, 1993. She was elevated to the Circuit Courts on June 29, 1995.[3]

McKenna was one of three candidates recommended to President Barack Obama by Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka to fill a judicial vacancy on the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii.[1] McKenna did not receive the nomination, which went to Leslie E. Kobayashi in April 2010.[1]

On January 25, 2011, Governor Neil Abercrombie nominated McKenna to a seat on the Hawaii Supreme Court.[1] The Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on her nomination on February 4 and advanced her nomination to the full Senate by a vote of 5–0.[4] Over one hundred pieces of testimony were submitted to the Judiciary Committee with respect to her nomination, the vast majority of which were supportive of McKenna.[4] Of the five testimonies that opposed McKenna's appointment, four did so because of her sexual orientation.[4] On February 16, 2011, the Hawaii Senate approved her nomination by a vote of 23–0.[5]


McKenna has three children.[1][2] McKenna is the first openly gay judge to serve on the Hawaii Supreme Court.[1] She is one of seven openly LGBT supreme court justices in the United States, alongside Rives Kistler and Virginia Linder, both justices of the Oregon Supreme Court, Barbara Lenk of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Colorado Supreme Court justice Monica Marquez, Connecticut Supreme Court justice Andrew J. McDonald, and Vermont Supreme Court justice Beth Robinson.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kobayashi, Ken (January 26, 2011). "McKenna is named to state's high court".  
  2. ^ a b c d e Kobayashi, Ken (January 31, 2011). "Judge secure with sexual orientation".  
  3. ^ "Hawaii State Judiciary: Sabrina McKenna". Retrieved March 9, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Kobayashi, Ken (February 5, 2011). "Nominee to Supreme Court easily wins Senate panel's OK".  
  5. ^ Star-Advertiser Staff (February 16, 2011). "McKenna confirmed to Hawaii Supreme Court".  
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