Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
May 30, 2019

Legal Aid Alumni & Staff Pau Hana 2019
Current and former Legal Aid staff members share their best stories at a recent alumni pau hana. Alumni from 5 decades represented Legal Aid's rich  (nearly 70 year) history in the community and throughout the state.

Windward-Leeward Oahu Legal Aid Managing Attorney Russ Awakuni takes time to reconnect with former Leeward staff members Alyssa Simbahon and Carolann Rowe.

"Building a Just Society"
Now on to Tidbits!
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Executive Director's Corner

Just a few days ago, I celebrated my tenth year as the Executive Director of Legal Aid. It came right after my birthday and right before my tenth wedding anniversary. Suffice it to say, ten years ago, things were a bit crazy. 

Now reflecting back over the last ten years, I'm so proud of all that we have accomplished together. The organization has grown its revenue from $5.3 million to $7.2 million, we've increased starting salaries an average of 61%, and we added the Hawai'i Immigrant Justice Center as part of our core services. We weathered through difficult times, including a recession, but still survived.

We've introduced new technologies, including new websites, a new case management system which allows for electronic case referrals between Legal Aid and Volunteer Legal Services Hawai'i, and we are on the cutting edge of the use of artificial intelligence to identify legal issues as part of the Legal Navigator portal project with the Legal Services Corporation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Microsoft.

We've opened self help centers in the courts, expanded our outreach in the community through the creation of a new Community Engagement unit, and closed over 87,000 cases.

I'm so proud to be a part of all of this and know that without our staff, supporters, and alumni we couldn't have done all of this. I am grateful to everyone for allowing me this opportunity to lead the organization for the last ten years.

Mahalo, mahalo, mahalo.


Legal Aid helps bus driver through difficult divorce
Douglas, a bus driver, came to Legal Aid seeking help with a divorce.  His case was complex since it involved a child custody battle, a mortgaged family home, numerous debts, jointly owned automobiles, and other joint assets.  His wife had retained private counsel, and he felt overwhelmed and helpless.  Fortunately, over the course of several months of appearing on his behalf in court, a custody evaluation, and lengthy negotiations with opposing counsel, Legal Aid was able to obtain a fair settlement on his behalf.  He was extremely grateful for Legal Aid's assistance, and very relieved to complete his divorce.
Douglas and Legal Aid attorney Maile Shimabukuro posed in front of the courtroom 
upon the  completion of his divorce.

Security Deposit Victory
" . . . they are there to help anyone that cannot afford an attorney (and they do it to the best of their ability) which is so greatly appreciated. They are very informative and make sure you understand your rights and prepare you for your case." - Lona (Lona successfully represented herself in her security deposit case after meeting with Legal Aid.)

"She did a great job! First we helped her pull together all her exhibits and prepare for trial. Then when she won we helped her to figure out how to obtain and enforce the judgment. The landlord is now paying her at $50 per month for a judgement of around $370."
-Benjamin  Pittenger  , Maui Legal Aid attorney

Legal Aid helps finalize civil union divorce for domestic violence victim
Nohelani claimed that her wife was stealing her identity and had been abusive. To make matters worse, she did not know her wife's exact whereabouts. Fortunately, Nohelani's family helped her locate and serve her wife. Eventually, Legal Aid was able to default the wife and complete the divorce. Nohelani was relieved and very thankful that she was finally divorced and could move forward in her life.

Charity Walk 2019 

Thank you to all our supporters who helped Legal Aid staff participate in this year's Charity Walk sponsored by the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association. The event helps raise money for non-profit organizations across the state and distributed $113,000 to 21 nonprofit organizations on Oahu that serve the homeless.

Justice for All Oahu Community Navigator Training
Connie with Oahu Community Navigators.

On May 14-15, 2019, Connie Liu (Managing Attorney for Community Engagement at the Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i) and Wookie Kim (Staff Attorney at the ACLU) conducted a Community Navigator Training at the University of Hawai'i Campus Center.   Through a partnership with Teresa Bill (UH Systemwide Coordinator for Bridge to Hope), the team led participants in an interactive program.  Approximately twenty people participated in the training, learning how to recognize legal issues and direct community members to appropriate legal resources.  The participants represented organizations such as Kalihi Palama Health Center, Department of Education, Ke Ola Mamo, Hawaii Disability Rights Center, EAH Housing, Child and Family Services, Lanakila Pacific, and Ka Pa'alana Partners in Development.   

Grant Teichman from Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii shares more about their services and programs.

The participants spent some time sharing about their communities and the communities' challenges. Thank you to Cristina Arais, Vice President of Survivor Advocacy Services at Domestic Violence Action Center, for providing information about their services to assist domestic violence survivors; Grant Teichman, Pro Bono Coordinator at Volunteer Legal Services of Hawaii, for sharing about his organization; and Katie Ranney, Special Programs Coordinator at Mediation Center of the Pacific, for teaching about mediation services.

Participants enjoyed the opportunities to connect with other service providers. On behalf of the participants, we thank the multiple organizations and funders who granted this opportunity: the Hawaii Justice Foundation and the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission through the support of the Public Welfare Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, Open Society Foundation, and the National Center for State Courts.

Equal Justice Conference 2019
Attendees at this year's Equal Justice Conference included members of the Judiciary, representatives of the HSBA, private attorneys, and legal services providers. 

Legal Aid's Disaster Legal Services attorney Melissa Goldman and Sergio Alcubilla represented Legal Aid at this year's  Equal Justice Conference  in Louisville, Kentucky. Melissa connected with national leaders on disaster legal assistance and Sergio was part of panel presentations on Legal Aid's national work with the Legal Navigator Portal Project. Thank you to the Hawaii State Bar Association's Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services to the Public for its support.

Louisville, KY - Birthplace of Muhammad Ali

King David Kalākaua Middle School Career Day 

Legal Aid outreach specialist Jacky Moses and William S. Richardson School of Law student Bev Simina. spoke with middle school students at King David Kalākaua Middle School's Career Day. Jacky and Bev provided an overview of Legal Aid services and different career fields within Legal Aid. 

Celebrate Micronesia Festival Outreach
Gina (Kauai AmeriCorps) joined Makia, Sepe, Sha (Honolulu AmeriCorps), and Joanne at this year's Celebrate Micronesia Festival. The event helped bring hundreds to the Bishop Museum in celebrating the traditional and contemporary art, dance, fashion and music of the people and cultures of the Republic of Palau, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Guam, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Kiribati and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. 

AmeriCorps Advocates Gina and Sha provide legal information to festival attendees.
Maui, Lanai, Molokai
Maui's Volunteer Attorneys and Court Navigators Recognized for Service to Community

May 14, 2019
Hawaii State Judiciary

Attorneys who assisted the community at the Maui courthouse Self-Help Center in 2018 were honored at the Maui County Bar Association's Court Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. Front row from left: Bevanne Bowers, Benjamin Acob, Caroline Belsom, Judith Neustadter Naone, Lauren Akitake, Megan Moniz. Middle row from left: Chief Judge Joseph E. Cardoza, Liz Cuccia, Yukari Murakami, Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, David Cain, Magdalena Bajon. Back row from left: Maui County Bar Association President William Pannell, Maui County Bar Association Vice President Damir Kouliev, Napoleon Taylor, Ben Pittenger, and Gary Murai. (Photo credit: Hawaii State Judiciary)

WAILUKU, HI - Twenty attorneys and 10 Court Navigators were recognized for their volunteer service to the people of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai in 2018. They were honored on May 10 at the Maui County Bar Association's Court Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, which was attended by Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald and Second Circuit Chief Judge Joseph E. Cadoza.

The attorneys provided free legal information to approximately 750 individuals who sought assistance at Maui's courthouse Self-Help Center. The center opened in October 2012. Since then, volunteer attorneys have provided more than 4,000 consultations to individuals who are representing themselves in their civil legal matters for landlord-tenant cases, collections, divorces, custody, and temporary restraining orders.

In 2018, the Second Judicial Circuit further expanded its efforts to assist people who appear in Maui District Court by establishing Hawaii's first Volunteer Court Navigator Program. There are currently 12 participants. Navigators serve at Hoapili Hale on days when District Court civil cases are heard. They give directions to the courtrooms, assist visitors who need interpreters or accommodations for sight or hearing impairments, and provide information on court procedures. They also advise court users of resources such as the Self-Help Center and the availability of free mediation services.

Since last June, more than 500 people have received assistance from the navigators, all of whom have received ratings of 'excellent' from those who completed an evaluation form. Two other states are now considering following the Maui model to establish similar programs.

"I am grateful to both our attorney and non-attorney volunteers who so generously contribute their time and expertise to serve our community at the Maui courthouse," said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. "They play a key role in helping us ensure that everyone's voice is heard in our civil courtrooms."

Justice For All Lanai Community Navigator Training

On April 11-12, 2019, Connie Liu (Managing Attorney for Community Engagement at the Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i) conducted a Community Navigator Training at Queen Liliu`okalani Trust in Lānaʻi City for approximately ten people, identified as trusted resources and community leaders. The training helped them recognize legal issues and direct community members to appropriate legal resources. The participants represented organizations such as Women Helping Women, Maui Police Department, and Department of Health.

Legal Aid Maui County Attorney Ben Pittenger shared about elder law and Legal Aid services.  Representatives from Women Helping Women provided information about their services to assist domestic violence survivors.  Thank you to Kathleen Algire from the Hawaii Justice Foundation for assisting with the training and  Pua Kanno from the Lanai Legal Aid office for handling the logistics!
Celebrating Ohana

Kona Legal Aid staff members Jennifer Gonzales, Laura Cushman, Sarah Kelly and Daniel Mistak enjoyed a successful outreach event at the annual Celebrating Ohana outreach. Mahalo to the Neighborhood Place of Kona for hosting this fun event. The keiki loved our face painting and "fishing for prizes" carnival game!

Kona Charity Walk 2019
Thank you to Kona Legal Aid staff members Jennifer Gonzales, Dan Mistak, and Sarah Kelly for participating in this year's Kona Charity Walk sponsored by the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association. 

Hawaii Loses Leading Civil Rights Advocate Joakim 'Jojo' Peter
The native of Chuuk, Micronesia fought for social justice for Pacific Islanders in Hawaii and beyond.

By Anita Hofschneider
Civil Beat
April 12, 2019

Joakim "Jojo" Peter from Chuuk encouraged students at the 2018 Micronesian Youth Summit to have pride in themselves and in their culture. (Photo credit: Cory Lum/Civil Beat)

Joakim "Jojo" Peter grew up on an island that was home to about 500 people and had no electricity, spending his childhood fishing with his grandfather and listening to stories about his family history.

Years later, Peter became an author and a champion for social justice in Honolulu whose influence spanned the Pacific Ocean.

Peter died Monday in Honolulu. He was 54.

Peter dedicated his life to advocating for the rights of immigrants and people with disabilities. He was an educator, scholar and community organizer known for his hard work and humility.

(Jojo served as a Health Navigator at Legal Aid and was instrumental in helping more people sign up for health care.)
In the News
Landlord-Tenant Basics on KHON2 Action Line Law Week
Law Week: Landlord and tenant law
KHON2 Action Line

Legal Aid's Housing Attorney Caitlin Humphreys was part of KHON2's Action Line during the Hawaii State Bar Association's Young Lawyers Law Week in May. She provided more information regarding common landlord-tenant issues.

Some Hawaii Public Housing Tenants Could Be Evicted Under Trump Proposal
The proposed rule would require HUD to check the immigration status of anyone under 62 who receives public assistance including housing.

By Anita Hofschneider
Civil Beat
May 21, 2019
The potential impact in Hawaii of President Donald Trump's proposed rule aimed at blocking undocumented immigrants from using public housing is uncertain.
Local public officials say at least a dozen families would be evicted if the rule is implemented.
But local attorneys warn the proposal could affect many more families, not just those who are undocumented, because it's common for even legal residents to lack key papers and struggle to replace them. . . . 
Public comments on the proposed rule are due by July 9.
Tatjana Johnson, a managing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, believes the proposed policy would be devastating because many families have mixed immigration status.
"It will tear families apart or cause the entire household to lose subsidized housing assistance and potentially become homeless," she said.
Confusion Reigns As Some Pacific Islanders Are Denied Licenses And IDs
There were more questions than answers in a packed meeting Friday as a federal official tried to clarify the effect of new Homeland Security rules.

Civil Beat
May 10, 2019

People gather for a workshop on obtaining driver's licenses for COFA migrants at We Are Oceania. 
(Photo credit: Cory Lum/Civil Beat)

Dozens of people crammed into a Kalihi meeting room Friday to learn more about new federal rules that are blocking many Pacific Islanders from renewing or receiving federally approved driver's licenses and state identification cards.
The rules continue to generate widespread confusion.

"Our drivers at the DMV are being turned away," said Gail Sagiao, director of operations at Roberts Hawaii. About half of her company's school bus drivers are affected by the new policy of the Department of Homeland Security. . . .
Some said employees at county driver's license offices have referred them to their consul general's office, USCIS and even We Are Oceania to get the necessary documents.
"People are going and being denied and not knowing what to do," said Tatjana Johnson, an attorney at the  Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. She said Legal Aid is planning to host community workshops on documentation for COFA citizens starting June 1 .
Kehau Yap, a representative for Sen. Mazie Hirono, told meeting attendees that Hirono was on a heated call with federal officials about the problems Friday morning. Yap urged community members to share their stories.
Legal Aid celebrates April as Fair Housing Month
Legal Aid Housing Attorney Caitlin Humphreys with Gov. David Ige.  

Legal Aid Housing Attorney Caitlin Humphreys represented Legal Aid at the Governor's Proclamation recognizing Fair Housing Month last April.

The Honolulu Office of the Mayor held a Proclamation Ceremony with Deputy Managing Director Georgette Deemer with Madonna and Lindsay from Legal Aid's Fair Housing Enforcement Program. 
WHEN:          Saturday, June 1, 2019
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.        Presentation in English and Chuukese.
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.            Presentation in English and Marshallese.
The Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii ("HIJC") will present a free legal workshop, "Important Documents for COFA (Compact of Free Association) Migrants." The workshop will cover a variety of documents that citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands need to live and work in the United States, including a passport, I-94 arrival/departure record, and Social Security number.  The workshop will address recent changes to federal and state laws regarding obtaining a driver's license or state identification card and the use of a "limited purposes driver's licenses" as a temporary solution for those with an urgent need for a driver's license.  HIJC will explain step-by-step how to complete the application for an Employment Authorization Document and what documents need to be attached to the application.  Immigration attorneys from the Hawaii Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association will be present to answer general questions. This workshop is presented in partnership with the Hawaii State Department of Education, Waipahu Safe Haven Immigrant Resource Center, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands Consulate General Office, Honolulu, Hawaii.
WHERE:        Waipahu Elementary School, Cafeteria
                     94-465 Waipahu St.
                      Waipahu, HI 96797

Save the Date: Public Benefits Overview Training August 22-23

Save the Date: Public Benefits Overview Training August 22-23
Please save  August 22-23, 2019 for the Public Benefits Overview Training at the HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union,  1226 College Walk, Honolulu, HI.  Please be on the lookout for details and registration in the early summer on  www.legalaidhawaii.org.  We'd love it if you could help us spread the word.