Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
February 7, 2020
1950 - 2020
A Legacy of Service in the Pursuit of Fairness and Justice

70th Anniversary Kick-Off Pau Hana

January 23, 2020

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70th Anniversary (1950 - 2020)

As part of its year long 70th Anniversary activities, Legal Aid will share 70 tidbits about its history throughout the year. Thank you to the longest continuously serving Legal Aid Board Member (1999-2020) Naomi Fujimoto for providing the following tidbits. 

Did you know? 

6. Legal Aid's first staff consisted of General Counsel Vincent Yano and Secretary Florence Kanako. The first month of operation ended with 101 open cases.

7. Although Legal Aid currently does not handle criminal matters, this was not always so.  During the 1960s, services expanded from only civil cases to both civil and criminal matters.  Legal Aid also signed a contract in 1968 with the State to provide public defender services for low income clients until a permanent Public Defender system could be established. Two full-time attorneys James Jung and Donald Tsukiyama (who would later become a Circuit Court judge) were assigned to the project.

8. Legal Aid received federal funding in June 1966 which funded expansion of Legal Aid to 11 neighborhood centers on Oahu and part-time coverage of neighbor islands via traveling attorneys. By December 1966, the Kauai Legal Aid office opened full-time in the Circuit Court building of Lihue and the Hilo Legal Aid office opened in June 1967.
9.  In February 1999, Legal Aid purchased the Friend Building at 924 Bethel Street to serve as a permanent home for the program and to house the Center for Equal Justice. Legal Aid moved into this new home at the end of October 1999.

10.  Patsy Mink's first law office was in the Friend Building that currently houses the downtown Legal Aid office on Bethel Street.

70th Anniversary  Oahu Pau Hana Kick-Off

Legal Aid alumni from 1970 to 2019 came back to the Bethel St. office for the 70th Anniversary Oahu Pau Hana kick-off to reconnect with staff, board members, and supporters and learn more about current Legal Aid projects. Mahalo to Legal Aid Board Member Jan Tamura for sponsoring the event!

Legal Aid's Executive Director, M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina and board members Jan Tamura and Joseph Boivin welcome alumni and supporters to the Bethel St. office.

Housing & Asset Managing Attorney Dan O'Meara and Housing Attorney Caitlin Humphreys chat with former Fair Housing Attorney, Sarah Casken.

Honolulu Office Manager Wade Honma and staff member Maggie Tran with Legal Aid alumnae: Carolann Rowe, Alyssa Simbahon, Elise Von Dohlen, and Rachel Hoke Miyashiro.

Legal Aid Board President Joseph Boivin recognized alumni and donors for their continued belief and support in Legal Aid's mission. 

Board members Jodi Yamamoto and Jan Tamura together with  former Legal Aid board member/president Susan Ichinose and Rex Fujichaku from the law firm of Bronster Fujichaku Robbins. The law firm is part of Legal Aid's Leadership Circle for its generous support of Legal Aid's work and mission.

Bethel Street Improvement Campaign

The kick-off also highlighted the Bethel St. Improvement Campaign to create a better environment for both clients and staff. Built in 1887, the Friend Building is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the State Register of Historic Places. To support the Bethel St. Improvement Campaign, visit  www.legalaidhawaii.org

Upcoming 70th Anniversary Events
Throughout 2020, Legal Aid will hosts various events to commemorate its history, honor the impact of its alumni, and share more about current priorities. Follow on social media, hashtags #LegalAidHawaii70 #70for70. 

Save the Date: Maui 70th Anniversary Pau Hana, Friday, March 6th. 
Sponsored by: Gary Murai

If you spent any time working or volunteering at Legal Aid, p lease take a moment to fill out this quick survey:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Alumni70th

"I moved back here thinking we were going to succeed in our marriage. It just got worse."

Before I came to Legal Aid I was unemployed and had no money to afford a divorce. I was and am living in my shed on someone's property. I was worried and still is about being homeless. It's not easy finding a job here in Hilo, especially one that will pay the rent, utilities, and necessities. I moved back here thinking we were going to succeed in our marriage. It just got worse. 

Legal Aid helped me with my divorce. No money needed. I ended up working about a month for a temporary seasonal position, which kept myself and mind busy. Although it was seasonal, it helped me financially for myself and buying new tires for my car which needed also maintaining. 

Due to Legal Aid's help, I finally got my divorce. I feel relieved but still stuck here until I can move. I wish there was a way I could get financial help from him. I deserve it. He is not an easy person to be with.

- Katie was helped by Haunani and the Hilo office.

"Releasing the lien on my house-this is a BIG DEAL."

I was being harassed by a debt collector attorney for a debt that had my illegal name but wasn't mine. I was unable to respond to the court proceedings because I was in the mainland caring for my stage 4 mother who had cancer. 

Legal Aid helped me clean up the mess that had occur from a credit card because I didn't understand the legal jargon that went on and on. This debt proceeded to increase in monies owed and a once $2,000 debt had exploded to twice that amount. 

Because of Legal Aid, I was able to contact the attorneys for the debt collection, refuse the amount of debt owed and get it taken off my FICA score. Releasing the lien on my house-this is a BIG DEAL. 

Don't be afraid to contact Legal Aid. They are here for you. Be patient. My debt had gone on for years. It doesn't go away. Joni was sympathetic and understanding and very helpful. 

-Belinda, age 72 was helped by Joni as part of the Kupuna Legal Aid Services project 

Serving the Community

Legal Aid's Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center helps client become a US citizen
Susan Gim and Leeyannah Santos celebrated the naturalization of Jin as a US Citizen!  
The Honorable Richard Randall Clifton, Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, presided over the naturalization ceremony. 

Disaster Legal Services Attorney Overview
Hilo Legal Aid managing attorney Scott Shishido welcome attorneys at a recent training on disaster legal services. 

As part of the LSC Disaster Legal Services grant, Legal Aid provided an overview to attorneys on the response plan in providing legal help before and after a natural disaster for attorneys on Kauai, Kona, Hilo, and Maui. 

Thank you the Judiciary, the HSBA Young Lawyers Division, the Kauai County Bar Association, the Maui County Bar Association, the West Hawaii Bar Association, and the Hawaii County Bar Association for assistance in providing the training.

Members of the Hawaii County Bar Association comment on the 2018 volcanic eruption that greatly impacted residents.

LSC Innovation and Technology Conference 2020

Legal Aid's tech innovations team of Andres Gonzalez and Alex Forger joined Executive Director Nalani Fujimori Kaina at the recent LSC Innovations in Technology Conference in Portland, Oregon. Nalani was part of the panel on "Building and Sustaining Statewide Access Innovations: Insights from Current Portal Initiatives" to discuss Legal Aid's role in the Legal Navigator online portal. The 2 year project, originally funded with a $1 million grant from the Microsoft Corporation, is preparing for beta testing. Hawaii and Alaska were the two states selected to pilot the project with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Alaska Court System taking the lead.