Page 5 - Hawaii Island MidWeek - March 15, 2023
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Connors Guided By Her Desire To Serve
lic Church in Kailua.
Her mother, now 80, still
helped organize.
“I think I landed in Hawai‘i
MARCH 15, 2023
    volunteers at the Women’s Community Correctional Center, helping inmates raise Wlettuce for the Outdoor Circle’s Learning to Grow hydroponics program.
on a Friday and on Saturday (my mom) said, ‘We’re going to this event.’ I said, ‘What event?’”
hat set Connors on the path to a law degree was her
It turned out to be a Hunks for Trunks fundraiser and she won the bid for an eligible bachelor and Kalāheo High School alum who was offering flying lessons in a small plane.
three-year stint as operations coordinator for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
The flying lessons didn’t stick, but the pilot, a Hawai‘i Air National Guard veteran, did. The pair have been mar- ried for nearly 20 years. They have a daughter and a son, both teenagers.
Fresh out of Yale Universi- ty, she was making sure trash pickups ran on schedule, parks and dog runs opened on time, and the approximately 66 in- door pools and 13 miles of beachfront — including Rock- away Beach and Coney Island — had approved safety plans.
former President
(Above) Connors (left) and her mother, Betsy Connors, at a Lani- Kailua Outdoor Circle Event. (Right) Connors is dressed as Outdoor Circle Mascot Mr. Mynah and her mother is dressed as Auntie Litter, another Outdoor Circle figure, at a Kailua Town event in the early 2000s. PHOTOS COURTESY BETSY CONNORS
She was only 22 years old and getting a taste of what it was like to make decisions for a complex organization that had a direct impact on every- day life.
Barack Obama nominated her for a position on the same fed- eral court where she’d clerked for Ezra.
there was nothing else I could have done.”
were all of these institutional system challenges.”
It was a tremendous oppor- tunity, but no cakewalk.
by President Joe Biden, who is up for re-election in 2024.
“I went into that job right out of college,” she continues. “And I got this sense of, ‘Wow, government can work, and if you put good people in gov- ernment, people who have this synergy and this commitment to things, everything will run better.’ So, I didn’t go to law school to be a litigator, I didn’t go to law school to be a pros- ecutor, I went to law school to find out how our systems of governance work.”
By this point, she’d been a trial attorney for the U.S. De- partment of Justice, specializ- ing in tax fraud, and a member of DOJ’s Honors Program, working on violent crimes and immigration cases. She’d also been an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Hawai‘i and had several years of civil lit- igation experience in private practice.
While she didn’t get to don the traditional black robe, she found plenty to keep her busy at the private law offic- es of Davis Levin Livingston, where she handled medical Wmalpractice, personal injury, insurance and civil rights cas- es, among other things.
As attorney general, she set about establishing a structure to examine complex issues. The AG’s Special Investi- gations Prosecutions Unit — which includes a human trafficking component — and Complex Litigation and Fraud Investigation Unit were among the results of this effort.
“As attorney general, there’s a lot of moving piec- es,” she says. “When the leg- islature was in session, I read every single proposed bill and there were thousands. You end up with a couple hundred, but we wanted to be sure that we were providing all levels of counsel to legislators ... At the same time, we had a lot of law enforcement actions happening.
For now, she remains com- mitted to supporting her assis- tant U.S. attorneys and federal law enforcement partners as they take on corruption, fight violent crime and protect na- tional security.
Young and motivated — and now armed with a J.D. from Harvard Law School — she planned to return to the parks department.
She made it through the U.S. Senate Judiciary Com- mittee hearing, but the full Senate never voted on her nomination. Still, she claims to having no regrets about putting herself out there.
attorney general spot in 2019, she left a lucrative position in private practice to return to public service after her nom- ination was approved by the state Senate.
“When you get to the AG’s office and you have 240-plus colleagues who have the same bandwidth as you, who are energized, interested and involved in cases at the state and the federal level, it’s like being in a candy shop,” she says, sounding like the more experienced version of the young parks worker.
“I worked seven days a week. My kids call it the AG years because (they’ll remind me of a non-work event) and I’ll say, ‘Did that happen?’ and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, it was in the AG years, Mom.’”
“Putting yourself out there ... in a thoughtful way and with clarity about why you are taking a particular step in your career or your life will never lead you down the wrong path, in my mind,” she says.
Instead, she got a clerk- ship with Judge David Ezra of the U.S. District Court, District of Hawai‘i, and met her husband-to-be at an Out- door Circle event her mother
s for the future, she says she hasn’t
er life took another turn in 2015, when
“It was a great experience to walk into those halls of the first branch of government, the Senate, and have the op- portunity to talk about why I thought I would be an effec- tive member of the Judiciary,” Connors says. “I made it out of committee so it was nothing to do with my qualifications,
“When I came to the at- torney general job, I early on recognized the lawyer stuff I’d done for years,” she says. “I’d been a criminal prosecu- tor, a civil litigator, I’d argued a lot of cases, I’d been in court, argued appeals — so the law stuff I could do. But the things that were of interest to me
thought too far ahead;
“I can only say that now with this many years of expe- rience behind me, having done it a few times. If you have a clear sense of what you want to accomplish ... and some- thing beyond yourself is mo- tivating that, then you won’t end up in a place where you shouldn’t be.”
hen former Gov. David Ige tapped her for the state
The job put her at the helm of a sprawling organization with more than two dozen divisions — everything from crime and labor to legislative matters and administrative services.
It may not be the path she originally imagined for her- self, but it seems to have led her to the right place.
her current role as the state’s top federal prosecutor is enough to keep her busy. Also, what happens next may not be up to her. She was nominated

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