Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
August 11, 2016
   
We believe in our clients and in their hope for a better future. 
Janet Kelly_ Senior Attorney_ Homeless Project

"We helped him obtain his birth certificate and he told me that after he got that "everything just fell into place." He was able to get replacement identification, obtained General Assistance, and is about to move into transitional housing. He knows he still has challenges ahead but is ready to face them with a positive attitude."  - Janet Kelly, Legal Aid Senior Attorney/Homeless Specialist

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The Legal Aid Society of Hawai´i extends its gratitude to the law firm of Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing for being a member of the Leadership Circle and for its enduring commitment to our vision of "Building a Just Society." 

Legal Aid's Executive Director  M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina presents the award to Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing's  Mike Webb and
Chrystn Eads together with  Sergio Alcubilla.
Legal Aid's Fair Housing Enforcement Program Helps Family Reach Settlement With Hawaii Public Housing Authority To Address National Origin Discrimination and Improve Language Access In Public Housing

HONOLULU - The Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i (Legal Aid), Valantin Sirom, Sasinta Seremea, and their family announced today that they have reached a Settlement Agreement with the Hawai'i Public Housing Authority (HPHA), resolving a Hawai'i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) complaint alleging that HPHA discriminated against them and their family because of their ancestry/ national origin and failed to provide them with meaningful language access in its housing programs. 
 
Hawai`i has one of the highest per-capita rates of limited English proficient (LEP) individuals in the U.S.  Approximately 24 percent of its residents speak a language other than English at home.  Language barriers often prevent members of the immigrant community from obtaining access to the services they need to become self-sufficient.
 
Mr. Sirom and Mrs. Seremea are LEP individuals and speak Chuukese.  In connection with an eviction action, they each signed HPHA's waiver of interpreter form written in English, their minor daughter served as their interpreter at their grievance hearing, and they did not have an interpreter at their eviction hearing.  In July of 2015, Legal Aid represented the family in filing a HCRC complaint against HPHA, alleging ancestry/national origin discrimination arising from HPHA's alleged failure to provide the family with interpreters and translate vital documents for the family, including the waiver of interpreter form, lease, and hearing notices.
 
The parties reached a landmark settlement awarding two thousand dollars in monetary damages to the Sirom family, and an agreement by HPHA to adopt and comply with new language access policies and procedures, provide LEP individuals meaningful notice of their right to free language services, translate vital documents, and train staff on language access and fair housing, in addition to other injunctive relief. 

Mrs. Seremea remarked, "We are so thankful for everything Reyna and Legal Aid has done for our family.  If it wasn't for them our family would be homeless."  Mr. Sirom added, "We are grateful to Legal Aid, HPHA, and HCRC for working together as a team to address discrimination and improve language services in public housing.  We hope these new changes will help others like we have been helped, so other families will know their rights and won't have to go through what we did."

Housing authority pays Micronesian family $2,000 in discrimination dispute

August 9, 2016
By Moanike'ala Nabarro
KITV4 News

When Not Speaking Fluent English Can Get You Evicted

August 9, 2016 
By Anita Hofschneider

After a family was almost kicked out, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority agrees to adopt new translation and interpreter procedures.


Attorney Reyna Ramolete, top left; public housing resident Valantin Sirom, top right; his wife Sasinta Seremea, bottom left; and fair housing outreach specialist and interpreter Emmie Suzuki-Phillip, bottom right, at the Legal Aid Society in downtown Honolulu
The Hawaii Public Housing Authority is revamping its policies for providing translation and interpretation services for thousands of residents after settling a discrimination case brought by an immigrant couple.

Valantin Sirom and Sasinta Seremea filed a complaint at the state Civil Rights Commission last summer when they were evicted from public housing after two hearings in which the Housing Authority did not provide an interpreter.

The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, which represented the couple, contended the Housing Authority discriminated against them based on their national origin by not providing a free interpreter or translating important documents, including a notice that they had the right to an interpreter.

A Housing Authority board voted to evict Sirom and Seremea last summer, but dismissed their eviction last September after the Legal Aid Society interceded.


SAVE THE DATE! Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center Iijima Fellowship Fundraiser

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The event raises money for a law student to serve as an Iijima Fellow summer law clerk.  The fellowship is a commemoration of  Chris Iijima , a professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law. Chris was active in the Pre-Admission program to assure that all Hawaii residents have an equal opportunity to enter the challenging curriculum of law school by easing them into school with preparatory classes.  For more information, please contact Bow Mun Chin (HIJC Staff Attorney) at bowmun.chin@legalaidhawaii.org.

Date: Thursday, September 22, 2016
Time: 5:00-9:00 PM
Venue: Kan Zaman @ 1028 Nuuanu Ave., Honolulu, HI 
Thank You To Our Summer Law Clerks And Volunteers!

The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii thanks its summer law clerks and volunteers for another great summer of legal learning and hard work. Working at a non-profit, public interest law firm provided a valuable experience as they worked with Legal Aid attorneys and staff in assisting clients, completed legal research, and were part of various projects to help improve access to justice for the public. 
 

From top:  Allysen Manding, Emily Tanaka, Mele Moniz (summer law clerk), Charlotte Mukai, Thomas Christensen (AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator), Matt Murakami (summer law clerk), Yun Kim, Sierra Hagg (summer law clerk), Dana Morita. (Not pictured): Kara Teng (summer law clerk), Henry Hawkins, Johanna Ward, Sheena Choy
Legal Aid Trains Volunteers For Disaster Relief In Preparation For Hurricane Season 



The Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi partnered again with the HSBA's Young Lawyers Division to train attorneys for disaster relief efforts. Legal Aid Executive Director, M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina conducted training for nearly 20 attorneys. The attorneys will now be available to provide legal information in areas such as insurance, maritime, housing, and other issues that could impact the community after a natural disaster. 
LawHelp.org/hi Website Gets A Makeover



The LawHelp.org/hi website is going through a much needed makeover thanks to Kara Doles, Legal Aid's project coordinator for the Hawaii Legal Services Portal. The site includes Legal Aid's videos, online court forms, and legal information brochures to better serve the public. 
In the Community



AmeriCorps Advocates Cheryl Bellisario and Makana Gomes provide legal information at this year's Convoy of Hope community outreach on Oahu. 
Legal Aid Blood Drive


Thank you for helping make Legal Aid's blood drive a success!
Please continue to support the Blood Bank of Hawaii and help save lives.