Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
December 21, 2018
   

Wishing you and your ohana all the best this holiday season!
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii Holiday Card 2018
Thank you for all of your support in 2018.




"Building a Just Society"
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Executive Director's Corner


 
As the end of the year approaches, I want to thank everyone for their support and commitment to our vision of building a just society. Each year, our organization assists in over 7,000 cases on critical legal needs which impact the lives of over 10,000 men, women, and children.
 
The work of our staff is remarkable, and recent victories include, ensuring "hanai" rights in housing and that language access is provided especially in cases of sexual assault in public schools. Our attorneys and paralegals work hard on a daily basis to ensure that tenants are able to maintain their Section 8 vouchers, that debt collectors do not prey on victims for debt that is not owed to them, that victims of domestic violence are protected, and that victims of crime have access to civil legal services. They also assist elders on the neighbor islands with wills, advance health care directives and powers of attorney for health, and play a vital role in assisting the homeless in getting their vital documents replaced so that they can get identification. The work of our staff each day makes a difference in the lives of those who are most in need in Hawai'i.
 
We have also worked to be innovative in our approaches and have launched a number of new efforts in the last year.
  • Our partnerships with Microsoft, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and LSC with the support of local foundations like the Hawai'i Justice Foundation, Kosasa Family Fund, Hawai'i State Bar Foundation, and Hawai'i Women's Legal Foundation, is leading to the creation of a demonstration on-line portal aimed to increase the ease and access to legal information for the public. We anticipate the public launch of the portal in late 2019.
  • The creation of pro bono clinics to assist the Micronesian community with accessing Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). With the assistance of pro bono attorneys and law students across the state, we were able to assist over 40 people this year with the filing for EADs which provides key documentation for community members to work and to get driver's licenses beyond one year.
  • We developed in collaboration with Volunteer Legal Services Hawai'i through the support of the Hawai'i Community Foundation, a systems map on where and how civil legal services can better be used to intervene and assist in reducing barriers to homelessness.
  • The Community Navigator project aims to increase knowledge amongst community leaders and social service staff about the types of problems that people may face which can be addressed by legal interventions. This project was developed as part of the statewide Justice for All Strategic Planning efforts which identified community knowledge and awareness as key to ensuring access to justice. It is supported through a sub-grant from the Hawai'i Justice Foundation which is receiving support from the Public Welfare Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and Open Society Foundations. The Community Navigator project trained its first set of navigators in December 2018 and will train seven more classes in 2019 across the state.
  • As a result of last year's disasters, Legal Aid received support from the Hawai'i Community Foundation to bring on staff to assist with assessing and providing assistance in Puna. Because of this support, Legal Aid was able to leverage federal support from the Legal Services Corporation to bring on a Disaster Legal Assistance Staff Attorney who will be helping over the next year to develop resources and materials, training, creating an infrastructure and plan for responding to disasters working with pro bono attorneys, and providing legal assistance to those who still have legal issues outstanding from the flooding and lava of 2018.
  • We created an innovative approach to teaching Marshallese women about domestic violence through the use of traditional basket weaving and using their own stories in increasing their empowerment.
  • We are also excited to announce the start of a new partnership in West Hawaii to create a medical legal partnership which adds a second collaboration to our efforts in Waimanalo.
There is so much that has happened in the last year and we are looking forward to an equally busy 2019 as we aim to build a just society.
 
We continue to hold true to our commitments to justice, equality, integrity, respect, compassion and excellence as we move forward and believe that all of our efforts toward building a justice society must focus first on empathy for our clients situation, but must also measure any approach with data and with an understanding of the systems that we work in.
 
Thank you for your on-going interest and support.
 
Mahalo,
 
Nalani
Client Stories

Federal Court Worker's Rights Case 

Legal Aid's Fair Housing/Worker's Rights staff attorney Lindsay Kukona Pakele stands in front of the federal courthouse. 


Fair Housing/Worker's Rights staff attorney Lindsay Kukona Pakele will be in federal court for a Fair Labor Standards Act case against a salon and spa/beauty school.  
 
Lindsay's client was a nail technician apprentice at a salon and spa that also operates a beauty school.   
 
Allegedly, throughout her employment with Defendants, she was regularly not paid minimum wage and overtime and was not timely paid for the hours she worked.  The case further alleges that the client was not paid any of her credit card tips nor for training time, that Defendants made illegal deductions by requiring her to pay for mandatory trainings, and that  Defendants failed to comply with Hawai'i's legally-mandated pay rate notice, pay stub and record-keeping requirements.
 
The client is seeking recovery of unpaid regular and overtime wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages; unpaid mandatory training time; unpaid credit card tips; illegal deductions for mandatory trainings; and, attorney's fees, costs, and interest.  She is also requesting that the Court instruct Defendants to sign off on her recorded apprenticeship hours, complete the required apprenticeship paperwork, and submit those records to the Hawai'i State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, which will authorize her to take the test to acquire her nail technician license.
A"Cinderella" Story
My client came to Legal Aid because her 16 year old daughter did not want to spend half of the time at her dad's house. She was forced to do chores her step-siblings didn't have to do, she could not go to the movies with her friends, she was always told she was a bad person, she could not even travel to visit her paternal relatives in Seattle. Her older brother went through the same thing and he stopped going to his dad's house when he was around 16 years old. Her brother is an adult now and testified at trial on behalf of his sister and mother. Both children went through a lot of emotional abuse because of their dad and step-mom. When my client came to Legal Aid last year, she suffered from strokes and was unable to work for some time. She was also being harassed by the step-mom. 
 
In the end, my client prevailed and won full legal and physical custody of her daughter as well as child support. This case was heartbreaking because I just couldn't understand how grown adults could use children to serve their selfish agendas and break down their self-esteem in the process. However, now that custody has changed, I am hopeful that my client and her family can move on and live a better life, free from the emotional abuse they had to suffer for so many years. -Susan Gim Takenaka, Leeward Oahu staff attorney
 
"Don't give up on your kids or yourself. Legal Aid are angels in disguise and help you physically and emotionally when you need it the most. Legal Aid was my savior and helped me throughout the whole process . . . Susan was my angel and a wonderful person."-Rosi

Oahu

First Honolulu Access to Justice Room Appreciation Breakfast

Posted on December 3, 2018 in Featured News, News & Reports, Hawaii State Judiciary

Attorneys who volunteer at the Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room and Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald (center) during a recent gathering. The event was organized and sponsored by the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Hawaii State Bar Association.

A Honolulu Access to Justice Room breakfast was held on November 8, 2018 in the Hawaii State Bar Association (HSBA) Conference Room. Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald thanked the individual attorneys who volunteered on Fridays to staff the Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room for donating their time and talents. Twelve attorney volunteers, one University of Hawaii law school student volunteer, and two AmeriCorp members attended the breakfast, which was organized and sponsored by the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the HSBA.

Chief Justice Recktenwald also thanked Legal Aid and HSBA for their tremendous support in making the Access to Justice Room available to individuals needing legal guidance. The attendees then took the opportunity to share thoughts and stories about their experiences volunteering, expressing how gratifying the experience has been.

The Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room first opened in August 2012 as a collaboration between the HSBA, Judiciary, Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, and Legal Aid. Since then, it has had over 5,000 visits from people seeking help with their civil legal problems. Thanks to these volunteer attorneys, as well as law firms and other organizations who commit their time and legal skills to ensure access to the legal system for those in our community, the program has been a success. The law firms and organizations will get together at a future date.

To the vital group of attorneys that our community relies on to keep the Honolulu Access to Justice Room going, the Judiciary extends its sincere thanks and appreciation.

Justice For All Community Navigator Training
The first Justice for All Community Navigator training was held at Key Project in Kaneohe, Oahu.

Legal Aid's Managing Attorney for Community Engagement Connie Liu concluded the first 2-day training for the Community Navigator project as part of Hawaii's Justice For All initiative. The Community Navigator project will train identified and trusted community leaders such as religious leaders, librarians, outreach workers from organizations and agencies, and other informal community leaders to provide accurate and relevant legal information to their communities. Legal Aid board member Aldora Kahele also completed the training. In the coming months, Connie will conduct training in other communities throughout the state.

Connie leads discussions with the first group of Community Navigators.

Advocates for Public Interest Law Pro Bono Fair
Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center staff attorney Ashlee Drake Berry speaks with John Chow, a first-year law student about internship opportunities with Legal Aid.

APIL (Advocates for Public Interest Law) at the William S. Richardson School of Law held a pro bono fair for law students to learn more about the different legal service providers and how law students can help through clerkship and other volunteer opportunities. Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center Staff Attorney, Ashlee Drake Berry answered questions from students interested in immigration and work-life balance at Legal Aid. 

Immigration Class at the William S. Richardson School of Law

Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center (HIJC) staff attorney Jennifer Jung was the guest lecturer at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law class on immigration. Jenn provided insights on VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) and U-Visas. 

Career Day at Leilehua High School

HIJC Senior Staff Attorney Bow Mun Chin spoke to students interested in becoming an attorney at Leilehua High School in Wahiawa during the school's career day. In addition to sharing more about the path to becoming an attorney, Bow Mun also addressed crime victim issues in the context of his work as students were interested in both the criminal and civil sides of the law. 
Kauai
Legal Aid AmeriCorps Advocates Recognized

Kauai Attorneys Recognized for Volunteer Service to Community
Posted on Dec 11, 2018 in Featured News, News & Reports, Hawaii State Judiciary

LIHUE, HI - Fifteen attorneys and an AmeriCorps Advocate were recognized for their volunteer service in providing free legal information to more than 500 Kauai residents who went to the Puuhonua Kaulike Courthouse Self-Help Center for assistance in 2018. They were honored today during a recognition ceremony attended by Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald.

Hawaii's first courthouse Self-Help Center was established on Kauai in October 2011 as part of the Judiciary's commitment to helping people who cannot afford an attorney and must represent themselves in civil cases. Since opening, volunteer attorneys and AmeriCorps Advocates have assisted members of the public with nearly 3,200 consultations on civil matters related to landlord tenant cases, collections, divorces, custody cases, and temporary restraining orders, at almost no cost to the public.

"I am grateful to the attorneys who generously volunteer their time at our Self-Help Center. By assisting individuals who are representing themselves in court, they help ensure that all Hawaii residents have equal access to justice," said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.     
"I thank each of the attorneys who volunteered, and extend special thanks to the Kauai County Attorney's Office, whose attorneys volunteered to staff the Self-Help Center a total of 25 times from January through June," said Chief Justice Recktenwald.   
                            
The attorneys who were honored were: Mark L. Bradbury, Matt Bracken, Nancy Budd, Katherine Caswell, Nicholas Courson, Sinclair Salas Ferguson, Jodi Higuchi, Kai Lawerence, Jay Mason (Legal Aid), Emiko Meyers, Allison Lee, Sherman Shiraishi, Adam Roversi, Teresa Tumbaga, and Linda Vass (Legal Aid).

 
Special acknowledgment was given to AmeriCorps Advocate Sonia Song (pictured here with Chief Justice Recktenwald) who, through the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, has run the Kauai Courthouse Self-Help Center for four years. Thanks to her efforts, the center was open five days a week in 2018.

"Sonia Song has been a mainstay for the Kauai Self-Help Center," said Chief Justice Recktenwald. "She has gone far above and beyond the call of duty to provide support and assistance to the people of Kauai needing help with their legal matters. Her dedication is second to none. She is a perfect example of the collaborative partnership that makes the Self-Help Centers work."

"Central to the success of our Self-Help Center are the volunteer attorneys who commit their time to ensure access to the legal system for everyone in our community," said Linda Vass, Managing Attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii on Kauai. "The Self-Help Center is the result of a statewide collaboration of the Hawaii State Judiciary, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, and the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.  Dozens of residents visit the Center each week for assistance with civil matters. We are so grateful to today's honorees for assisting those who cannot afford a lawyer, and we look forward to a greater number of attorneys from the Kauai Bar volunteering at the Center in the coming year."

At the Kauai Courthouse Self-Help Center, volunteer attorneys and an Americorps Advocate provide limited legal information on District and Family Court civil matters, including landlord-tenant cases, collection cases, District and Family Court temporary restraining orders, divorces, custody and other matters. Assistance may be given by providing court forms, reviewing court documents for interpretation or to ensure that the forms have been completed correctly. Additionally, volunteers try to answer as many procedural questions as possible.
Maui
 45th Annual Senior Fair 

Maui Seniors Paralegal Stacey Casco provided information at the 45th Annual Senior Fair at the War Memorial Complex with this year's theme "Engage at Every Age!"  

"Older Adults in Maui County remain integral to the overall health of our community, and the annual Senior Fair is one place where individuals of all ages can learn of ways to make a difference in the lives of others." -Stacey

'"Planning ahead to engage others" by Stacey Casco

The Maui News
24 Oct 2018
By STACEY CASCO Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i


 

Each year, I meet hundreds of older adults at community events, nursing care facilities and in their homes. Some are still active and full of boundless energy. Others are just coming to terms with declining health and bank accounts. Many are caring for loved ones. Regardless of where you are in life, now is the perfect time to start planning ahead to engage others.

 
As a paralegal and notary public for the Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i, planning ahead to engage others includes having an Advance Health Care Directive and Uniform Durable Power of Attorney. These documents enable you to authorize someone, often called an agent, to act on your behalf should you no longer be able to do so.
 
According to the National Association of States United for Aging and Disability:  
 
The lifetime probability of becoming disabled or cognitively impaired is 68 percent. 
18.1 percent of seniors live alone.
By 2030, many retirees will not have enough income and assets to cover care expenses.
 
Unfortunately, many people avoid or delay advance directives until it is too late. I am frequently called to meet seniors at their bedside, when legal authorization is required to make medical decisions, obtain insurance coverage or manage finances. Some seniors are sometimes too ill to comprehend or properly execute a legal document. When this happens, important decisions are delayed and resources are not available to meet basic needs.
 
Advance Health Care Directive and Uniform Durable Power of Attorney documents are tools that can help engage others when you need those most. You still retain authority to make your own decisions while you have the capacity to do so, but having an agent available to help you can make things easier and less stressful. Be sure to think carefully about who you can trust to follow your instructions and act in your best interest. You don't have to leave important decisions to chance. You can determine your destiny.
 
With support from Maui County Office on Aging and Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i, I am here to help answer any questions you may have about these documents. Seniors age 60 and older are eligible for my assistance, regardless of assets or income. There is no charge for our services, but voluntary contributions are welcome. Call our senior hotline at (888) 536-0011 today.
Kona
Konawaena Elementary School Outreach
Laura Cushman, Sarah Kelly, and Dan Mistak participate in Konawaena Elementary School PTA's first Special Needs Resource Fair.

Kona AmeriCorps Advocates and Kona Self-Help Center volunteers recognized for their efforts

Kona Attorneys Honored for Helping Hundreds in West Hawaii
Posted on Nov 1, 2018 in Featured News, News & Reports, Hawaii State Judiciary
 
KEALAKEKUA, HI - Thirty attorneys were recognized for voluntarily providing free legal information to nearly 600 Hawaii Island residents who sought help at the Kona Courthouse Self-Help Center in the last year. They were honored during a recognition ceremony on October 19.

The Self-Help Center was established in October 2013 as part of the Hawaii State Judiciary's commitment to support people who must represent themselves in civil cases because they cannot afford an attorney. Since opening, it has assisted more than 2,000 people, with volunteer attorneys donating almost 1,000 hours of legal information on civil matters, such as temporary restraining orders and divorce. These services have been provided nearly cost-free to the state.

"Your service as attorney volunteers helps to provide both assistance and hope to individuals who may not know where to turn, and therefore helps to instill confidence in our legal system and legal community," Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald told the volunteer attorneys at the celebration. "That is why the work you do is so important, and why we appreciate your efforts so deeply."

Chief Justice Recktenwald added, "We are looking forward to opening the Keahuolu Courthouse in 2019 for many reasons, and one of them is that there will be more space for volunteer attorneys at the self-help center."

The following attorneys were honored: Brit Barker, James Biven, Jason Braswell, Laura Cushman, Katherine DeLeon, Porter DeVries, Stephen Frye, Jerry Garcia, Fred Giannini, Jennifer Heimgartner, R. Hermann Heimgartner, Dawn Henry, Joan Jackson, Kauanoe Jackson, Andrew Kennedy, Susan Kim, Carol Kitaoka, Frederick Macapinlac, Charles McCreary, Charles Murray, Shawn Nakoa, Bob Olson, John Olson, Peter Olson, Donna Payesko, Daniel Peters, Joanna Sokolow, Kimberly Taniyama, Mark Van Pernis, and Georgette Yaindl.

Also acknowledged were Sarah Kelly and Bayley Nagy, the AmeriCorps Advocates who, through the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, run the Self-Help Center.

The Chief Justice also thanked the West Hawaii Bar Association, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, and the Access to Justice Commission for their support of the Judiciary's efforts to bring self-help services to Hawaii residents statewide.

"The West Hawaii Bar Association member attorneys who volunteer their time at the Kona Self-Help Desk are committed to serving the West Hawaii community," said Donna Payesko, the organization's president. "The Self-Help Center is an integral part of providing access to justice and we appreciate the cooperation and the support of the Judiciary and the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii in maintaining this very crucial service. We look forward to the opening of the Kona Judiciary Complex next year where the West Hawaii attorneys will continue to serve the community in an improved facility."

"The most vital aspect to the Self-Help Center is our volunteer attorneys," said Kelly, the AmeriCorps Advocate. "There wouldn't be a Self-Help Center without their generosity and true community spirit they demonstrate.

"The center's customers are extremely grateful and have shared many compliments," added Kelly. "One person said, 'It is such a blessing to see others helping our world become a better place. Malama Pono.'"
Hilo
Disaster Legal Services Training


Hilo Disaster Legal Services paralegal Jasmine Kupihea and Disaster Legal Services attorney Melissa Goldman were part of a two day training on disaster case management systems. After the training, Jasmine and Melissa took a tour of the areas impacted by this year's lava flow to continue to assess unmet legal needs in the community. 

Thank you!

(Photo credit: Hawaii County Bar Association)

Mahalo to the members of the Hawaii County Bar Association and the HSBA Young Lawyers Division for providing free legal help to those impacted by this year's lava disaster. 

Thank you to the many donors who supported the "Kokua for Puna Lava Disaster Fund" through the Hawaii State Bar Foundation. The funds will help Legal Aid continue disaster legal assistance in Hawaii County.
In the News
2018 NLADA Annual Conference: "Resilient Justice"

With the theme of "Resilient Justice" the 2018 National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) Annual Conference in Houston, Texas featured many of Legal Aid's staff. Legal Aid's Executive Director Nalani Fujimori Kaina served as chair of this year's NLADA Conference Committee and is also a member of the Board of Directors. Legal Aid's Deputy Director Angela Lovitt and Nalani also served on a panel presentation on "Systems Thinking for Creating Impact" and how it is being used to focus civil legal services for the houseless population. 

Nalani delivers remarks at this year's NLADA Conference.
 
At the NLADA National Conference, I had the opportunity to moderate the Civil Caucus panel which focused on artificial intelligence. Ensuring Individual and Systemic Justice in a World of Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms, and Automation, featured LegalServer and Houston A.I. Founder IV Ashton, Philadelphia Legal Assistance Staff Attorney Julia Simon-Michel, Law Help Interactive/Pro Bono Net Program Manager Claudia Johnson, and The Pew Charitable Trusts Principal Associate Lester Bird. Each spoke to the different ways in which artificial intelligence is being used in legal aid and how it impacts our work at legal aid.

At its core, artificial intelligence is machine learning which can be used to increase efficiency and analysis for data driven activities. It is about seeking patterns and probabilities. For example, we see artificial intelligence at work every time we open our Facebook account or use Amazon, those algorithms which decide which ads to pop-up or items you might be interested are using artificial intelligence to predict what you might like based on your past patterns and probabilities.

In the legal aid context, artificial intelligence is being looked at as a way to more quickly get people to the resources they need on line through natural language searches which use artificial intelligence to identify the "legal" issue. It is also being looked at as a way to identify patterns of organizational behaviors in intakes and cases which may help to identify systemic issues or provide other information as to how a case may end up given a certain number of criteria.

But, it is also being seen in other contexts as well. Government is beginning to look at artificial intelligence to make public benefit decisions. Much of the work that Julia Simon-Michel is doing at Philadelphia Legal Assistance is to look at how artificial intelligence is being used and being "taught" to make decisions in public benefit cases. She is asking those hard questions about the "black box" on which artificial intelligence is based and whether these systems are already biased. As both she and Claudia Johnson shared, it is critical at these times that legal services attorneys get involved to ensure that diverse data sets are being utilized to fuel the algorithms that are being used.

As courts also begin conversations around the use of on-line dispute resolution, our job as legal services attorneys is to continue to be at the table to ensure that biases against our client population do not become part of those algorithms.

Ultimately, though, artificial intelligence is coming and it can be an advantage to us as a tool to serve more clients and to serve them better, but can also be used to adversely impact our clients. As such, we need to be prepared to be part of the conversation.

-Nalani

 
Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center Managing Attorney Tatjana Johnson and Outreach Specialist Joanne Loeak were part of a panel presentation at the NLADA Conference titled "Domestic Violence Education & Outreach through Community Empowerment" together with Kace Rodwell and Mary Beth Williams from Oklahoma Indian Legal Services. Their presentation challenged the traditional model of outreach and suggested a methodology based instead on listening to communities, identifying cultural resilience, and uplifting cultural practices that address violence against women. 


eCourts Conference 2018

Legal Aid's Director of External Relations Sergio Alcubilla joined Stacy Marz, Alaska Court System Director of Self-Help Services at the National Center for State Court's premium education conference, the 2018 eCourts Conference to share about the Legal Navigator Initiative as part of their session, "Incubating Innovation in the Aloha and Midnight Sun States." 

The Legal Navigator Initiative is a project of the Microsoft Corporation, Legal Services Corporation, Pro Bono Net, and the Pew Charitable Trusts to use technology to make getting legal help easier.
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Announcements

Positions Open!
Please visit  www.legalaidhawaii.org  for more information:
  • Staff Attorney - Leeward Oahu office
  • Staff Attorney - Maui
  • Medical-Legal Partnership, Outreach Specialist
  • Accounting Clerk
  • Administrative Assistant