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SERVING THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY SINCE 1993
JAN. 6, 2018

COVER STORY

COVER STORY

Meet The Honorable Judge Catherine Remigio

By Sheryll BONILLA, Esq.

The following Q&A is with the honorable Judge Catherine Remigio. Last year, Gov. David Ige appointed Remigio to serve on the First Circuit Court, as Deputy Chief Judge, Family Division; and Senior Judge, Family Court. She will serve a 10-year term beginning April 7, 2017 until April 6, 2027. Born and raised in Hawaii, Remigio grew up in Waipahu and graduated from Kamehameha Schools. She received her Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and later her JD from the UH William S. Richardson School of Law. In this interview, Remigio candidly talks about her childhood, her experience

as an attorney, and the demands and responsibilities as a judge. She offers gems of wisdom to young attorneys, and to all youths. She is truly a role model.

HFC:  What led you to a career in law? 

REMIGIO: I originally intended to be a foreign correspondent. I graduated from the School of Foreign Service and decided to take a break and work for 2 years.  I ended up in San Francisco where I worked for an alternate energy company, in the legal department.  My roommate's boyfriend was a Prosecuting Attorney stationed out of Oakland.  We would watch LA Law (TV program) and have heated debates about criminal law.  He told me I should take the LSAT and consider law school.

HFC: What did you do before? 

REMIGIO: Before I became an attorney, I worked as a legal assistant, legislative aide, law clerk for various firms, and a Circuit Court law clerk.

HFC: What do you feel is the experience of Filipino lawyers? 

REMIGIO: I don't know that Filipino lawyers have different experiences from other lawyers.  Cultural understanding and sensitivity are necessary for all ethnicities.

HFC: What about for Filipino female lawyers? 

REMIGIO: There are few female attorneys in litigation, much less Filipino female attorneys.  When I practiced law, I was aware of the fact that most of my counterparts were male, and few of my colleagues were Filipino.  I have never felt at a disadvantage, however.  The quality of work and success of a case depends mostly upon preparation, skill and the ability to adapt in court.  These are things that I have worked hard to achieve.    

HFC:  Filipinos tend to work as solos rather than at firms.  What do you feel are the advantages or disadvantages or qualities of such a practice?  Have you experienced other law practice settings?  What do you prefer? 

REMIGIO: I have worked in civil firms, as a government attorney, and in a partnership (2-person firm). The advantage of working in a firm (civil or government) is the ability to learn from others who have more experience and to develop skills and be trained.  I would encourage new attorneys to seek this type of work when they are first out of law school.  Clients expect and demand attorneys who are able to successfully handle their cases because they have the knowledge and skill to do so.  It is every new attorney's job to become knowledgeable and skilled in his/her area of practice.  As I got more experienced, I decided to run my own firm with one other attorney. This provided me with more flexibility in picking cases, in how much I earned each month, and in the pro bono cases I wanted to pursue.  So, my preference depends on the level of experience an attorney has.

HFC: Anything else you'd like to say?

REMIGIO: Being an attorney is an honor and a privilege.  People depend upon attorneys to help them with serious legal issues.  Simply obtaining a law degree is not enough and does not make one a good attorney.  Diligence, hard work, developing skills, and experience are all necessary.  If you want to practice law, you need to have an attitude of service.  Good attorneys make profound differences in the lives of those they help.  If you are able to make a living and also help others, you have achieved something worthwhile.

HFC: What are some of your responsibilities as judge to the First Circuit Court? 

REMIGIO: As Senior Judge, I supervise 10 full-time Family Court judges and up to 15 part-time judges who preside over cases ranging from divorce, temporary restraining orders, paternities, child welfare service, juvenile criminal and status offense, adoptions, etc.  We handle a high volume of cases, so I also work on policies and procedures to ensure we run as efficiently as possible while providing assistance to those who come before the court.  I myself handle high conflict divorce trials, juvenile sex assault trials, and other cases that are either complex or present a conflict to the assigned judge.  I also have a regular TRO motions and review calendar.

HFC: How did you feel about your appointment by Gov. David Ige? 

REMIGIO: It was, and is, a great honor to be appointed.  Many skilled and qualified judges and attorneys applied for the position and I am grateful to have been chosen from such a distinguished group.

HFC: Why do you think you were chosen? 

REMIGIO: If I had to point to one thing, I'd say my experience.

HFC: You also served as a judge in Family Court. Can you briefly describe your work under that capacity? 

REMIGIO: I spent 2-1/2 years handling divorces, and 3-1/2 years handling CWS (Child Welfare Services) cases and juvenile criminal and status offense cases.  I also chaired several committees, most importantly the Child Support Guidelines Committee, the Truancy Court Pilot Project, and Imua Kakou.

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