Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
May 31, 2018
   


Equal Justice Conference 2018
The Hawaii delegation at this year's Equal Justice Conference included legal service providers, attorneys in private practice, and members of the Hawaii State Judiciary. 
The group, in matching ties and scarves, helped share Hawaii's aloha with 
special treats and small local gifts for the attendees. 

"Building a Just Society"
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Executive Director's Corner


Nalani's Opening Remarks as co-chair of this year's Equal Justice Conference

E hō mai (i) ka ʻike mai luna mai ē
ʻO nā mea huna noʻeau o nā ike ē
E hō mai, e hō mai, e hō mai ē (a)

Aloha Kakahiaka, good morning and welcome to the 2018 Equal Justice Conference. On behalf of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, I'd like you to thank you for making the journey here to San Diego.

I am Nalani Fujimori Kaina, a member of the NLADA Board of Directors, and the co-chair of this year's conference. I am honored to be this year's co-chair, but kind of assume it could be because this is the closest the conference will ever get to Hawaii.

However, because of that, we've brought a bit of aloha with us to San Diego. To open this morning, I shared an 'oli or chant. Written by Edith Kanakaole, E ho mai, asks...

Give forth knowledge from above
Every little bit of wisdom contained in knowledge
Give forth, give forth, oh give forth

It is an 'oli that is often used as an opening. For me, it helps to ground me, set me, and connect me back to Hawaii wherever I may be.

There is so much going right now where justice is needed and as we take on those difficult issues, grounding ourselves helps us to maintain our empathy for others. Coming from the land where epic flooding cut off an entire part of Kauai, lava is flowing in the middle of a housing subdivision, there was a false threat of a nuclear attack, and I just read that acid rain is in the forecast. Combine that with the hurricanes of the fall impacting Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Florida and Texas, the wild fires throughout the west, and the recent tropical storm in American Samoa. Add to that political funding uncertainties, attacks on immigrants, and inflaming of racial tensions. And did you know that last year the cicadas in DC awoke 4 years earlier than their normal cycle? Ok, so there may actual be something to be said that the apocalypse may be happening.

With everything going on, it is ever so important at these times to ground and steady ourselves, so that we may take on the task of taking care of others. 

We are an amazing and dedicated community which works together during the chaos. From the many attorneys on Kauai and on Hawaii Island reaching out to our program to see how they can help their community in light of our most recent disasters to the pro bono and legal aid attorneys who have been hard at work still helping out months after last year's hurricanes to those assisting with insurance claims after the massive wild fire to the images last year of attorneys in mass at major airports after the immigration ban and the many many other attorneys who are helping in this time of unexpected disasters, we continue to unite to help others. 

On a daily basis, our community also helps tens of thousands of people with their civil legal needs just so that they can have their basic necessities met, to keep themselves and their families safe, and to ensure that justice prevails.

Along the way, we develop empathy. To feel for those around us, to see the difficult (and sometimes impossible) choices that need to be made, to not know how our clients continue on despite all of the barriers in their way. For all of us here, life could not exist without it.

Recently, in my attempt to understand more clearly our work with Microsoft in the development of the statewide legal access portal, I read Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's Hit Refresh. He's been acknowledged as bringing a new approach to Microsoft, built around empathy. He talks about one of his interviews when he first applied to join Microsoft, the interviewer asked:

"Imagine you see a baby lying in the street, and the baby is crying. What do you do?"
"You call 911," he replied without much forethought. 
As the interviewer walked him out of his office, the interviewer said, "You need some empathy, man. If a baby is laying on a street crying, pick up the baby."

Learning from that and other experiences, including birth of his son who lives with severe cerebral palsy, he is working to lead the company by using different experiences to connect new ideas with a growing sense of empathy. From his perspective "empathy grounds and centers him." It is this approach that has brought the idea of inclusive design to the Microsoft process aimed at designing for those at the margins with the belief that everyone will be served by that.

As I read, I thought of our advocates and attorneys who work tirelessly to meet the impossible demands for service. We had empathy. We had tons of empathy. We see the best and worst of human nature. It has always fueled our work.

So, how do we operationalize it to the next level? And if the head of a multinational company sees value in what we do everyday, why shouldn't others? How do we use our common experience to shape the world in new ways, to use this strength to change the world? How do we find balance so that the sheer impact of everything around us doesn't stop us from moving forward? 

As this 2018 Equal Justice Conference starts, there are a multitude of opportunities to learn about new innovations, new ways of thinking, and how to do our work better. I'd plug some sessions here, but don't want to get into trouble with Don Saunders and Steve Scudder, the wizards behind the curtain. 
Over the next few days of learning, I hope that we find ways to use our empathy as our strength and also find ways to use this conference to ground ourselves with this amazing community all around us so that we can continue to do awesome work.

In Hawaii, we are a mixed stew of cultures built on understanding each other. We've found ways to blend and shape together a culture of aloha. We mixed up a war-time staple of Spam with rice and nori to create the Spam musubi long before Roy Choi made the Korean Taco famous. One of the traditions in our culture comes from the Hawaiian practice of ho'okupu or offerings and a Japanese practice of omiyage or bringing of gifts. To that end, we have brought some treats from Hawaii to thank you and honor you for all that you give. This year, we've brought a Hawaii delegation of sixteen, legal service providers, pro bono attorneys, Judiciary staff, the friendliest (and loudest) law librarian in the country, IOLTA board members, bar leaders, and our Chief Justice to this conference and the Access to Justice Chairs conference on Saturday. I'm grateful for their support and help in these gifts to you. Wearing our scarves and ties, please be sure to get some chocolate macadamia nut candies, bumper stickers, or Kauai salt from one of our delegation as you leave this morning's session. Please also say hello throughout the conference.

Aloha Kakahiaka and E Komo Mai, good morning and welcome to this year's 2018 Equal Justice Conference.

-Nalani
Oahu

HIJC hosts another successful Employment Authorization Document clinic
HIJC staff Ashlee Drake Berry, Tatjana Johnson, and Joanne Loeak with Ronnette Ome, Jasmine Jin, Connie Liu, and Emil Romolor at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.

Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center (HIJC) at Legal Aid hosted a free community legal clinic on May 4, 2018 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Wahiawa, Oahu. 

A big mahalo to St. Stephen's for hosting our legal clinic!

HIJC at Legal Aid would like to thank Sr. Aurora de la Cruz, Kelly Y. Uwaine, Sechyi Laiu, Carmen DiAmore-Siah, and John Egan for volunteering at this legal clinic. Clint Uwaine and our former Iijima Fellow, Kenory Khuy, also volunteered to help process applications. 

The legal clinic was designed to assist citizens of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau apply for work permits, or Employment Authorization Documents, from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Changes in federal and state policies on IDs have had a negative impact on the COFA community living in Hawaii. Citizens from these nations can only get a one-year driver's license, for example, due to these changes. With an EAD, citizens can get up to a 5-year driver's license from the DMV. EADs also prove eligibility to work in the United States and function as a form of identification. HIJC strongly advises the COFA community to keep important documents, like a passport and I-94, secured at home. 
-Tatjana Johnson, Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center managing attorney

Ronnette Ome, Cinder Sonis, and Melissa Wong provide valuable legal information 
to participants at the clinic.

       
Ronnette Ome conducting a "Know Your Rights" presentation for clinic participants.

Honolulu Legal Aid office sponsors Blood Drive June 12

The Blood Bank of Hawaii will be across the street at 924 Bethel St. on Tuesday, June 12 from 8:45 am-Noon. To sign up, please  click here.
Kona

Kona office sponsors Family Health and Immigration Clinic
       
Kauai

Congratulations to Kauai AmeriCorps Advocate Sonia Song 
In celebration of Older Americans Month, congratulations to Legal Aid AmeriCorps member  Sonia Song and other seniors who shine, no matter the outcome. 

Kauai's Outstanding Older American nominees were recognized at a recent ceremony and luncheon at the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort. 

According to the Garden Island newspaper, Kauai has approximately 18,995, or more than 20 percent of its population, na kupuna, or people who are aged 60 years and older, who enrich and strengthen our community as stated in a mayoral proclamation celebrating May as Older Americans Month. The national initiative is led by the federal Administration on Aging and is a part of the Administration for Community Living.

The theme was, 'Engage at Every Age,' which emphasizes that you are never too old or too young to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Kealoha Takahashi, director of the county Agency on Elderly Affairs commented, "Older Americans Month also celebrates the many ways in which older adults make a difference in our communities."  -Gina Okuda-Stauring, Kauai AmeriCorps member

Sonia Song receiving much deserved recognition for her service in the community.
In the News

Hawaii "co-hosts" Equal Justice Conference
T he Equal Justice Conference is co-sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and 
Public Service and National Legal Aid & Defender Association.
 
Legal Aid's Executive Director Nalani Fujimori Kaina and George T. (Buck) Lewis III, Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, served as the co-chairs for this year's Equal Justice Conference in San Diego, CA. The conference brought together 1,001 judges, attorneys, and legal advocates to share ideas, network, and strengthen the resolve towards justice and fairness for all. This year's conference was one of the largest attended as it sought to join all components of the civil legal aid community to discuss and address issues related to the delivery of legal services to low-income individuals in need of legal assistance. Nalani and Legal Aid's Deputy Director Angela Lovitt served as presenters for various workshops throughout the 3 day conference. The Chief Justice of California, Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and Dr. Robert Ross,  president and chief executive officer for The California Endowment, served as guest speakers.

Legal Aid Society of Hawaii Executive Director and Equal Justice Conference co-chair Nalani Fujimori Kaina opens this year's conference with a mele 'oli to welcome over 1,000 attorneys, judges, and advocates dedicated to the pursuit of  providing meaningful justice for all.

Legal Aid visits the Nation of Hawaii

Legal Aid staff members visited the Nation of Hawai'i at its land base, Pu'uhonua o Waimānalo, as part of its outreach in the community.  The staff learned first hand from the Nation's Head of State, Bumpy Kanahele and its Deputy Head of State, Brandon Maka'awa'awa about the history and work of the Nation. Legal Aid conducts regular field trips for staff members to better understand and learn from the communities they serve.

 

Legal Aid welcomes Summer Law Clerks
 
Legal Aid welcomes a very bright and enthusiastic group of summer law clerks. 

Tyler Saito 
University of Hawaii, Richardson School of Law
Nicholas Severson
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
Heather Tanner
University of New Mexico School of Law
Beverly Simina
University of Hawaii, Richardson School of Law
Taylor Brack
University of Hawaii, Richardson School of Law
Tiffany Silva
University of Hawaii, Richardson School of Law
Cynthia Moore
Syracuse University College of Law
Miki Nakamura
University of Hawaii, Richardson School of Law
Clint Hamada
University of Southern California
Tyler Yadao
Grand Canyon University
Client Stories 

Helping a grandmother provide a stable home for her grandchildren
Legal Aid managing attorney Russ Awakuni helped Linda obtain guardianship over her two grandchildren. 

"Legal Aid helped me step by step through the whole process. They were also very helpful, understanding, considerate, caring, and patient. I loved that they explained things to me so that I could understand the legal terminology. They actually helped me longer than I expected and stuck with me through all the drama that was going on through the whole case. I was able to gain legal guardianship of my 2 grandchildren which relieves a lot of stress and worries that I had. My grandchildren are also very happy knowing that they can remain with me and don't have to go back to a home with constant fighting and unstableness." -Linda

In gratitude, Linda gave a hand made puka shell necklace and wood box.
Mahalo!

Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room Volunteers
Thank you to the law firm and attorneys of Cades Schutte for  adopting the month of May to volunteer at the Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room. 

AmeriCorps Reflections: HNL Access to Justice Room by Monica McConnell  
It was a Monday, just like any other Monday-my day off but, not really. On Mondays I volunteer at the Honolulu Access to Justice Room (AJR). This Monday in particular wasn't especially inviting. The clouds over the island decided to open up completely and pour down all that they were made of. They drenched every inch of dryness. Most particularly, downtown. I would have to be made of exceptionally good stuff if I were to say that I was eager to get off my comfortable bed, and happily drive over the slippery Pali that day. But, I am from just good enough stuff. I somehow miraculously willed my reluctant self to drive through the torrent of water and slow cars on that Monday. 

Some days the outside of the AJR is adorned with lonely computers, and empty chairs and tables however, this Monday wasn't one of those. I arrived to find people huddled close and actually using the computers but, more importantly waiting to see an attorney. It was so busy that my voice was waning from talking to clients. "Hello, what brings you here? Tell me how we may help you. Alright, please wait." One by one I approached them steadfast. 

Sometimes people stand out for one reason or another. She stood out. She was well dressed and chic. Besides that fact, it was an uncanny lost look that betrayed her. I greeted her and had her fill out an Intake Form. And because there were so many others ahead, I had her wait. Though, I made a mental note that I would see if I could help in some way as soon as I could.

Time passed. I had been in and out of the AJR countless of times. This one moment in particular as I exited, I spotted her in another line. I went up to her and asked her why she was waiting in line. That's when she stared at me with her dry red eyes. And with whatever strength she had, her mouth opened and her words at first tumbled out and then rained down with the heaviness pain. She was too tired and numb to care who heard her. She was on the thin edge of hopelessness and my eyes watered.

After listening, I told her "I understand." I sat her down and together we worked on what she needed to do. I left her from time to time but, assured her that I would return and check on her. She didn't require an attorney that day; however, there were resources from the AJR that she was given and used before she left. The rest of the day flew by filled with people. But, I didn't forget her and have yet to. How can someone forget a person existing in an unbearable state of being?

There are moments in everyone's lives, I think, when we feel hopeless and lost. And what a relieve it is to have someone understand, listen, and maybe help. That is what the Access to Justice Room is for many people, a solace from the flaws of society, or an umbrella on a rainy day. A very few of these people will leave a comment to state this fact. However, I am here to tell you, share with you, and inform you. I am hear to give voice to the unspoken; "Thank you, everyone that's involved in pro bono work, or volunteering in whatever way or the other, every little or big thing that you do counts. You are all superheros in your own right."

Oahu Visitor Industry Charity Walk 2018:   A
 Cake Walk
 
L-R: Alexis Mukaida, Reka Imai, Maga Amekudji, Hoku Taroc, Monica McConnell, Connie Liu, Madonna Castro Perez, Cinder Sonis, Maggie Tran, Brea Tran, Ming Tanigawa-Lau (not pictured) at the 
Oahu Visitor Industry Charity Walk.

For some lucky Legal Aiders, Saturday started off bright and early at 5am. Legal Aid's Managing Attorney for Community Engagement, Connie Liu coordinated this year's Charity Walk event for our Oahu staff. After a warm welcome, we began our super walk of 7.5 miles at Magic Island! It was a long and arduous journey (joking) through Waikiki but with the help of a few our staff friends and delicious baked goods and treats, it was a cake walk.
 
We'd like to thank Connie Liu for sponsorship and coordination of this awesome event. We'd also like to thank other staff and board members who contributed to our stomach, muscles, and most importantly, our hearts. -Alexis Mukaida, HNL AmeriCorps member