Deputy Public Defender Wendy DeWeese takes oath as family court judge

  • Wendy DeWeese speaks at her swearing in ceremony as Family Court Judge Friday at the Kona Courthouse. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KEALAKEKUA — The confirmation to judge of Wendy M. DeWeese marked history for Hawaii Island courts as it has now achieved gender equity on the bench.

DeWeese was sworn in as a family court judge for the 3rd Circuit Friday afternoon at the Kona courthouse. She is now the sixth female judge on the island and the second in Kona. The other five judges on the island are men.


Formerly a Deputy Public Defender, DeWeese took the oath of office and donned her black robe for the first time in front of colleagues, dignitaries, friends and family.

“I want to thank the people who supported me along the way,” DeWeese told the crowded courtroom. “All of you have done little things to allow me to stand here today.”

DeWeese added she loves the Kona community.

“There’s no place I’d rather be than living in this community and working in this community,” she said.

The newly appointed judge feels she owes the people in Kona a debt of gratitude.

“I will work hard for the families in this community,” she added.

Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald also made comments after DeWeese was officially sworn in. He described the newly appointed judge as high energy, with leadership honed in the public defender’s office and a love for the community.

“She’s just a positive person who wants to help,” he said.

Recktenwald said family court has some of the hardest cases.

“It takes a special person to want to do this,” he said. “It takes a passion for helping kids and families.”

The chief justice said he’s absolutely confident DeWeese will excel at her new position.

“I really can’t wait to see what you accomplish,” he said.

A handful of others spoke about DeWeese, her work ethic and passion for her job. Donna V. Payesko, president of the West Hawaii Bar Association, talked about how DeWeese was always willing to share her knowledge.

“Anyone who’s seen her in court knows how even-tempered she is,” Payesko said.

She added the word to describe the new judge was pragmatic.

Sherilyn K. Tavares, president of the Hawaii County Bar Association, described DeWeese as a true public defender – laying down her armor to pick up the robe.

Tavares added DeWeese was compassionate and a straight shooter.

“She’s always maintained her humanity,” she said. “I’m confident she’ll maintain her compassionate and caring attitude.”

DeWeese has been a deputy public defender in Kealakekua since 2007. From 2005 to 2007, she served as a law clerk for Judge Ronald Ibarra (ret).


Before moving to Hawaii, DeWeese worked for 11 years in private practice in California handling personal injury, civil, and family law cases. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Southwestern University School of Law, a member of the California State Bar since 1993, and was admitted to the Hawaii State Bar in 2006.

DeWeese was appointed in June by Recktenwald from a list of not less than six nominees submitted by the Judicial Selection Commission. The state Senate confirmed the appointment on July 10.

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