California-based federal Judge Wallace Tashima was assigned Friday to hear the lawsuit challenging Honolulu's rail transit system.
A mainland judge became necessary because all nine of Hawaii's federal judges and magistrates have recused themselves, apparently because many of them expressed concerns to the city about the rail route running very near the federal courthouse.
Most of the Honolulu-based judges wrote a letter last year expressing the concern that the elevated train, which would pass within yards of the courthouse windows, posed a security and terrorism risk.
Although documents filed in court Friday did not say so directly, the local judges' concern about the rail route could create an appearance of conflict of interest, which judges are required to avoid whenever possible.
Judges' Letter Against Route
Attorneys for the group suing the city and federal government said Thursday that they would prefer a local judge hear the case, but said they were certain they would get a fair hearing regardless of where the judge was from.
Tashima is a member of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He presided over a case in Hawaii in 2009 involving teacher furloughs.
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