Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
March 22, 2018

In honor of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole, 
all Legal Aid offices will be closed on Tuesday, March 26.

"Building a Just Society"
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Executive Director's Corner

Resiliency is one of the things I think about often, when I think of our organization and the clients that we serve. At an organizational level, we aim to be resilient and to make it through the tougher times by building a reserve and diversifying funds as well as asking for flexibility as issues arise. When things like the partial federal shutdown occurred earlier this year, our preparation and financial management has made us resilient to some of the impacts.

For our clients, it is their resiliency against everything that is being thrown at them. I think to the number of legal issues that confront them and the sheer will and stamina that it takes to go through a divorce, be an open book to government in order to receive public assistance or rental subsidies, or to potentially lose your home. It is their resiliency through it all that I have and always will admire.

Yet, ultimately, I realize that resiliency is at the heart of the place that we live. The resiliency of the native people and the ability to resist the erosion of culture and history after so many years is what makes Hawaii the special place that it is.

As I think of those themes that will drive me through 2019, resiliency is one of them. To ensure that our organization is resilient to survive and provide services to the clients that we serve who already face the challenge of being resilient each day, and to continue to learn about and honor the resiliency of the people that came before us.


Client Stories

Special Needs Guardianship

I was very concerned how I'd be able to apply for guardianship. I thought it was going to be hard but Legal Aid helped me with the process to get the guardianship with ease. Ms. Charlotte prepared the legal documents and set up our court appointment. She was very accommodating and patient to answer all our questions every time we would call her. On our court day, attorney Minerbi was like our coach because he guided us on how to answer the judge's questions and gave us good advice. 

I now have peace of mind since I am officially the guardian for my son with special needs  even when he turns 18. I am able to make decisions for him and have the right to talk to his doctors. Do not hesitate to ask Legal Aid for their help . . . I am so thankful and grateful to Legal Aid for everything they have done. -Rani

State Identification 

Before I came to Legal Aid I was homeless living on Bishop Street. Also unemployed, in need of income and housing. Legal Aid helped me file for SSI, get my birth certificate and advocate for housing. Because of Legal Aid, I am currently housed. I have my ID. Legal Aid is a great resource with great people working. -Miki

Kosraean Women's Day 

On March 9, Legal Aid's healthcare outreach specialist, Sepe Mongkeya participated in the third annual Kosraean Women's Day Event at Old Stadium Park with a pproximately 150 people attending the event.  Sepe spoke about reconciling tax credits by filing taxes, showing examples of the 1095A form.  She also taught the audience how to better use health insurance.  -Connie Liu, managing attorney for community engagement

Kalakaua Middle School Visit

Outreach specialist Jacky Moses spoke to middle school students and their parents at Kalakaua Middle School in Kalihi to share more about Legal Aid resources and options for pursuing a career in legal services. The school has a large Chuukese student population and many of the students were delighted when Jacky spoke to them in their native Chuukese language. 

Oahu Legal Aid Team Community Visit

As part of a series of community visits, the Oahu management team volunteered at Ho'oulu Aina ( www.hoouluaina.com ), a 100 acre resource at the back of Kalihi Valley. A service of Kokua Kalihi Valley Community Health Center, the space brings community together to strengthen the connection of people and land through the resource of forest, food, knowledge, spirituality, and health activity. 

Kahalu'u Elementary School Visit
Fair Housing Staff Attorney Lindsay Kukona Pakele served as a guest speaker at Kahalu'u Elementary School's Career Day.  She handed out Legal Aid pens, notebooks, and stickers while sharing about Legal Aid's work in the community.

Ewa Makai Middle School Career Day
Ewa Makai Middle School invited senior immigration attorney Bow Mun Chin as their guest speaker for Career Day. Bow Mun spoke to students about his journey in becoming an attorney and explained the steps needed to become one.
Kauai AmeriCorps Reflections - Gina Okuda-Stauring

During the longest government shutdown in our history, Kauai organizations like Saint Catherine's Food Pantry has been providing food and other services and upholding communities in need for over 9 years, no matter the circumstance. At a time when more individuals and families, feeling the effects, need support, it's good to know community outreach organizations are out there to help sustain balance. 
I arrived at the Pantry early, meeting  community partners from the Department of Health and Ho'ola Lahui Hawaii.  Unsure of what to expect, perhaps a mass influx of people in need; how to set up, being my first experience. I was immediately greeted and put to ease by Mark, who serves as the Operations Manager. He began to explain the history of the Pantry and soon my questions were being answered. I was curious though, as to who is eligible to receive food and services?  Was there an income qualification, or did you have to be a member of the church, etc. . . . When posed with the question, Mark responded, energetically,  "Anyone who comes to the Pantry and signs in, gets a number and receives".  He went on to say, that with a yearly budget of $30,000, $35,000 was spent on the Ministry to provide food and necessities to approximately 365 people a week in Oct.-Dec. last year.   Mark shared that the Pantry raises 100% of their funding, most of which comes from non-monetary donations. The Pantry not only offers food in a grocery store setting, but offers free pet food once a month provided by Kauai High School. 

Ho'ola Lahui Hawaii whose mission is to improve the health and well being to communities, helps clients with medical and dental and coordinated nurses volunteer to give flu and pneumonia shots, as well as blood pressure checks.  Costco donates over 200 packages of bread a week through the Hawaii Food Bank and the Hawaii Food Bank provides 100 dozen of eggs a week. School masses collect several hundred pounds of canned goods, not to mention, weekly beach drops bringing blankets and food to the homeless. Incredible!

The people began to trickle in and as it neared pau hana, they came in waves and once signed in, holding a number, the people planted themselves, until the clock struck 4:00 p.m., the people soon formed a line. Perfect! I decided to make a move, to step up and give my part and comb the area. Fortunately, within a short amount of time, I was able to hand out over 50 flyers and pens, reaching out to a wide variety of people, informing them about the free services offered by the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. Everyone welcomed me with a smile and even though some may not have needed any of the services mentioned, at the moment they were appreciative of the information and assured me that they would spread the word.

Legal Aid AmeriCorps Advocate Gina with members of the Food Pantry.

The Pantry operation is  impressive and well managed. The coordination with other organizations to use this platform, to reach out to a mass of people was effective. I was moved by the motivation and  kokua  of the volunteers, community partners, and donors, ready to give, regardless of what  was happening in the world.  I was grateful to June who invited me. I truly felt the spirit of aloha from both the giving and receiving. -Gina
 Justice For All Community Navigator Maui Training

The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii is conducting statewide legal training for community leaders to serve as Community Navigators.  The Community Navigator project is a part of Hawaii's Justice For All (JFA) initiative to help communities overcome barriers to accessing legal help such as ethnicity, culture, language, income, age, or geography.  The project trains trusted community leaders to provide accurate referrals to better assist those that naturally come to them for help. 

In partnership with the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission's Justice for All Task Force and the Hawaii State Judiciary, Legal Aid will complete at least eight statewide trainings and create a network of Community Navigators to include religious leaders, librarians, health care workers, and representatives from other non-profit organizations and state agencies.  Legal Aid's Managing Attorney for Community Engagement, Connie Liu is leading the project in collaboration with other legal services providers. 

Connie and Rae Shih (Legal Fellow at ACLU of Hawaii) conducted a Community Navigator Training at Maui Economic Opportunity in Wailuku in late January. Twenty people participated in the interactive training program. The participants represented organizations such as Maui Economic Opportunity, Malama I Ke Ola Health Center, Maui County Office on Aging, Immigrant Services Department of Housing and Human Concerns, Maui Aids Foundation, Micronesian United Church of Christ, Maui Rescue Mission, and Kahului Baptist Church.  They enjoyed the opportunities to connect and collaborate with each other. 
Other speakers included Breana Pakele from Women Helping Women, Bevanne Bowers from Maui Mediation Services, Danielle Sears from Public Defenders, and Stacey Casco from  Legal Aid.  Each speaker discussed how to access services in her area of expertise:  domestic violence, mediation, criminal justice, and elder law.  Yukari Murakami, Maui Legal Aid managing attorney, demonstrated how to use online legal resources.
During the training, Connie and Rae distributed legal check-up tools and referral sheets.  They provided this information in  portable fan-out wallets so that navigators could easily carry them.  They also discussed about implicit bias, so that participants learned about their biases when working under stress.  The training ended with scenarios for participants to role-play and practice making referrals.

Special thanks to Maui Economic Opportunity for hosting the training!

Hilo attorneys honored for providing free legal aid

Hawaii Judiciary photo Hilo attorneys Paul Hamano, Al Konishi, Peter Kubota, Michelle Oishi, Jill Raznov, Jennifer Wharton and Jackie Mena received special recognition from the state Legislature for volunteering more than 10 times each at the Hilo Self-Help Center in 2018. These "super volunteers," together with Melody Parker and Austin Hsu (not pictured), handled over 130 sessions providing legal assistance to the public. Also pictured are Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald (back, center) and Third Circuit Chief Judge Greg K. Nakamura (second from right).
Forty-one attorneys were recognized during the Hilo Self-Help Center Recognition Awards on Jan. 28 for providing more than 1,000 free legal consultations to people who sought assistance in 2018. The recognition ceremony was part of the Hawaii County Bar Association's annual meeting.
The Hilo Self-Help Center was established in July 2012 as part of the Hawaii State Judiciary's commitment to increasing access to justice in the courts. Since opening, more than 6,000 people have been assisted by volunteer attorneys providing legal information on civil matters, such as temporary restraining orders and divorce.
To date, this center has served more people than any other courthouse self-help center in the state. These services have been provided at almost no cost to taxpayers.
"Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, which has championed many significant initiatives, including our courthouse self-help centers," said Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. "The centers are a great example of what can be accomplished when we work together. I thank the Hawaii County Bar Association, Hawaii State Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, and all the volunteer attorneys for making this resource available to the community."
Volunteers were recognized for their service by Recktenwald, Third Circuit Chief Judge Greg Nakamura, Chief Court Administrator Lester Oshiro and Deputy Chief Court Administrators Cheryl Salmo and Dawn West.
The attorneys who were honored are: Francis Alcain, Lincoln Ashida, Christopher Bridges, Jeremy Butterfield, Kenneth Goodenow, Jo Ann Goya, Belinda Hall, Doug Halsted, Paul Hamano, Ray Hasegawa, Gerry Hasegawa, Charles Heaukulani, Bill Heflin, Mike Kagami, Nelson Kinoshita, Al Konishi, Peter Kubota, Kris Laguire, Demitri Lametti, Dwayne Lerma, Shaunda Liu, Craig Masuda, A. Jaqueline N. Mena, Jennifer Ng, Jeffrey Ng, Michelle Oishi, Melody Parker, Danny Patel, Jill Raznov, Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth, Christopher Rothfus, State Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, Christopher Schluter, Amy Self, Andrew Son, Steven Strauss, Al Thompson, Ivan Van Leer, Molly Ward, Jennifer Wharton and Jennifer Zelko-Schluter.
Also acknowledged was  AmeriCorps Advocate Christy Peace, who, through the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, organizes the Self-Help Center at the Hilo Courthouse.
In addition, the chief justice recognized Peace, Bill Heflin, the Hawaii County Bar Association, and the Senior Counsel Division for organizing three special Disaster Relief Clinics in 2018, where 23 attorneys volunteered to provide free legal assistance to over 170 people who were impacted by the volcanic eruptions.

"Hawaii Island has seen a significant increase in the number of people seeking assistance at our courthouse self-help centers over the past four years, and our success in meeting this need hinges on the commitment of our volunteer attorneys who work to uphold our nation's promise of justice for all," said Sherilyn K. Tavares, president of the Hawaii County Bar Association.
"We are most grateful to today's honorees for assisting those who cannot afford a lawyer, and encourage more attorneys to join us in the ongoing effort to ensure everyone in our community can fully exercise the rights guaranteed to them by our system of justice.
Justice For All Community Navigator Kona Training

Connie Liu (Managing Attorney for Community Engagement at the Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i) and Wookie Kim (Staff Attorney at ACLU of Hawaii) conducted a Community Navigator Training at West Hawaii Civic Center in Kona in early February for fifteen community leaders.   The participants represented organizations such as Milolii, West Hawaii Community Health Center, and Hawaii Affordable Properties at Ulu Wini. 

Speakers during the two-day training included Eric Paul from West Hawaii Mediation Center, Joanna Sokolow from the Office of the Public Defender, and Daniel Mistak and Tahisha Depontes from the Legal Aid Kona office.  Kona Legal Aid Americorps Advocate Sarah Kelly demonstrated how to use online legal resources.

Over 50 participants on Oahu, Maui, and Molokai have now completed the training. Further trainings are scheduled in April for Lanai and in May for Kauai, Oahu, and Hilo. Other partner agencies include American Civil Liberties Union - Hawaii, Domestic Violence Action Center, Mediation Center of the Pacific, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, University of Hawaii Elder Law Project, and Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii.  

The Community Navigator Project is an initiative of the Justice For All grant and receives funding from the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), the Public Welfare Foundation, and the Hawaii Justice Foundation. The National Center for State Courts is an independent, nonprofit court improvement organization whose mission is to improve the administration of justice through leadership and service to state courts, and courts around the world.

The Public Welfare Foundation supports efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. These efforts honor the Foundation's core values of racial equity, economic well-being and fundamental fairness for all.

The Hawaii Justice Foundation is an independent, tax-exempt grant making organization whose sole purpose is to achieve justice for Hawaii's people. The Foundation was established in 1969 as a vehicle for philanthropic law-related projects in the State of Hawaii.

Special thanks to West Hawaii Community Health Center for hosting this training!
In the News
Legal Aid's Executive Director Nalani Fujimori Kaina was recently honored by the Mediation Center of the Pacific with the "Lawyer as Problem Solver Award" for her consistent work in promoting mediation and dispute resolution to increase access to justice for all. 
Hawaii State Bar Association Leadership Institute
Laura Knudsen and Sergio Alcubilla together with the 10th HSBA Leadership Institute Fellows.

Hilo Legal Aid managing attorney Laura Knudsen and Sergio Alcubilla from the Honolulu Legal Aid office completed the 10th Annual Leadership Institute program of the Hawaii State Bar Association. 

The program was developed as a result of the bar's strategic planning process, in which leadership development became a key focus and to encourage diversity among the leaders of the bar.  Each month, the Fellows interacted with prominent leaders of the legal profession and the greater community to help expand their talents, services, and commitment to leadership to the bar and community.

For attorneys interested in applying, please visit www.hsba.org. Deadline April 5, 2019.

Free Citizenship Workshop

The HawaiĘ»i State Bar Foundation (HSBF) is partnering with the Beta Beta Gamma Foundation on a new grant program, MoveMeHawai'i. Its purpose: to educate the public about social justice issues, promote community unity, and support organizations that provide legal or social services to the underserved.

To support this program, HSBF is hosting a fundraiser on Sunday, April 28 at Kaimuki High School. Highlighted by a special screening of the movie "And Then They Came for Us," featuring actor George Takei and other internees, this inspiring film received the 2018 Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association. 

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

Please save August 23-24, 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.