James Aiona

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A popular drug court judge, James Aiona became the first Republican elected Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii in forty years.
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James Aiona and Linda Lingle celebrate a headline heralding their electoral win.

James Aiona, formally James R. Aiona, Jr. and popularly known as Duke Aiona (born June 8, 1955), is the Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii. Prior to his election to the office in 2002, he was a popular jurist. Aiona was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He attended Saint Louis School, a local Roman Catholic academy of the Diocese of Honolulu. Upon graduating high school, Aiona left the island to pursue a bachelor of arts degree in political science, which he received from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California in 1977. Aiona returned to Hawaii and graduated from the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1981.

Judicial Career

Aiona began his career as an attorney in the public sector holding various positions in the City and County of Honolulu. In 1990, Aiona was appointed by Governor of Hawaii John D. Waihee III to the Hawaii State Judiciary. He became a judge of the Hawaii State Family Courts and had exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving legal minors involving delinquency, status offenses, abuse and neglect, termination of parental rights, adoption, guardianships and detention among others. Aiona also oversaw cases of domestic relations involving divorce, child support and custody matters. In 1993, Aiona was appointed to the First Circuit Court in Honolulu. The Hawaii State Circuit Courts are the primary civil and criminal courts in Hawaii. Aiona became famous for his tough rulings for drug offenses. Aiona retired in 1998 to work in the private sector.

Political Career

Aiona first entered politics in 2002. He ran in the Republican Party of Hawaii contest for the nomination to join the gubernatorial ticket led by former Mayor of Maui Linda Lingle. Aiona won and advanced to the general election in November of that year. In December, Aiona was sworn in at an emotional inauguration ceremony at the Hawaii State Capitol rotunda to become the state's lieutenant governor.

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