Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
February 28, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr. and Hawaii

Photo credit: University of Hawaii News

"I come to you with a great deal of appreciation and great feeling of appreciation, I should say, for what has been accomplished in this beautiful setting and in this beautiful state of our Union.

As I think of the struggle that we are engaged in in the South land, we look to you for inspiration and as a noble example, where you have already accomplished in the area of racial harmony and racial justice, what we are struggling to accomplish in other sections of the country, and you can never know what it means to those of us caught for the moment in the tragic and often dark midnight of man's inhumanity to man, to come to a place where we see the glowing daybreak of freedom and dignity and racial justice."

"Building a Just Society"
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Executive Director's Corner

With 80% of people not seeking legal assistance for their legal problems, how can we better provide access to our legal services? One of the ways that we're looking at is our work with Microsoft and the Pew Charitable Trusts on the Legal Access Portal.
The project is now well underway after an immersion workshop at the end of January here in Hawai'i with end users, including our Board Director Aldora Kahele as one of the participants along with Kara Doles and me. Using the lessons from this workshop and a more in-depth study conducted by Islander Institute which were then combined with lessons learned from Alaska, Microsoft and its team of organizations are now deep in the thralls of pulling together an initial design concept for the portal. Testing will begin in the next month and work will continue for a while as the prototypes are developed.
A new partner in this project is the Pew Charitable Trusts who recently agreed to make a significant commitment to working on access to justice efforts. The portal project is one of these efforts and last month, Lester Bird visited during the immersion study period to learn more about the work that we do along with that of our partners. We are excited about their commitment and participation with our project.
As we move forward, there is still a lot of work to do, but we're excited about the possibilities that the portal holds. Let Kara, Sergio Alcubilla, or me know if you have any questions as things move forward.



15,000 Steps NieiRek Women of Vision Health and Wellness Fair

Legal Aid Health Navigators Cinder Sonis and Ronnette Ome joined AmeriCorps advocate Jasmine Jin and Joanne Loeak from the Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center at the 3rd annual 15,000 Steps NieiRek Women of Vision Health and Wellness Fair at the Towers of Kuhio Park Community Hall. Hundreds of community members from Kalihi attended the fun-filled event aimed to promote healthy lifestyles. Various service providers promoted their organizations, including Hawaii HOME Project, a mobile health clinic partially staffed by UH Medical students.
The theme for Legal Aid's booth was "Every Step Counts." Over 50 children visited the table to color footprints, while their parents obtained information about Legal Aid. Cinder and Ronnette educated visitors about special enrollment for health insurance and completing tax returns to continue receiving subsidies through the Federal Marketplace. They also offered information about Legal Aid's Victim of Crime project. Jasmine provided general information about Legal Aid, while Joanne offered information about immigration. 

They will continue to conduct outreaches at various sites, including Hawaii HOME Project and Family Assessment Center, a transitional shelter for homeless families.  They conduct intake in all Legal Aid areas of expertise, such as vital documents and will continue to help people apply for and address issues with health insurance.  
AmeriCorps members part of Oahu Point in Time count

The annual Oahu Point in Time Count (PIT Count) took place in 7 Regions across the island. The Homeless Outreach Team participated in Region 1's Kakaako area (John Kaaihue, Emil Romolor, and Jasmine Jin). AmeriCorps members Ming Tanigawa-Lau and Alexis Mukaida also participated in Region 2's Waialae and Old Stadium Park areas.

Photo credit: Health Care for the Homeless Project

Summer A2J Tech Fellow Chad Au on his summer at Legal Aid

Law Technology Fellowship Aids the Disadvantaged
February 1, 2018

Law students from Hawai'i are joining others from across the nation in increasing access to justice through a new technology fellowship.

UH Law School student Chad Au '18 helped the Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i to add a "chat-bot" feature to its website to enable online visitors to get easier and faster help for their legal questions. A chat-bot is a computer program designed to simulate a conversation with human users, especially over the internet. Read more

Meet Abdullah Al Bawardy, Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center volunteer
Abdullah Al Bawardy is a second year law student at Harvard Law School. Abdullah volunteered at the Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center (HIJC) at Legal Aid during his January 2018 term break. He focused on providing free legal clinics to the COFA community as well as serving immigrant victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.

Abdullah commented, "My time at the Hawai'i Immigrant Justice Center was phenomenal. Although I was only there for a few weeks, I was still able to learn so much about immigration and to make a real impact. Everyone at the office made me feel very welcomed and never hesitated to guide me through my work. I am thankful for the amazing experience and would certainly recommend it to anyone wanting to explore the area of immigration law!"

HIJC staff Paul Luu, Tatjana Johnson, Ashlee Drake Berry with Abdullah

Fair Housing unit receives federal funding

Hirono Announces $300,000 in Federal Funding to Fight Housing Discrimination
January 25, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Mazie K. Hirono announced today that the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii will receive $300,000 from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)'s Fair Housing Initiatives Program to assist victims of housing discrimination.

"In a state with such a high cost of living, Hawaii families already struggle to find and afford a place to live. They shouldn't have to contend with the added burden of housing discrimination," Senator Hirono said. "This federal funding allows the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii to seek redress for victims of housing discrimination and raise awareness of fair housing laws."

"We are very grateful to receive this grant from HUD that allows us to continue to work towards ending housing discrimination in our communities," said M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina, Executive Director of Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. "As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, we thank Hawaii's congressional delegation in their advocacy and support to achieve fair housing for all."

Hilo Attorneys Recognized for Assisting 1,000 People in 2017
HILO, HI - Forty-seven attorneys were recognized during the Hilo Self-Help Center Recognition Awards on January 8 for providing free legal information to more than 1,000 people on Hawaii Island who sought assistance at the Hilo Courthouse Self-Help Center in 2017. This is the most the Hilo Self-Help Center has ever served in a single year.  

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 4,900 people have been assisted by volunteer attorneys providing legal information on civil matters, such as temporary restraining orders and divorce. These services have been provided at almost no cost to the state.  

"I am grateful to the attorneys who volunteer at our Self-Help Centers, assisting individuals who are representing themselves in court. The dedication and commitment of these attorneys has been essential to advancing our goal of ensuring that everyone has equal access to justice in our civil courts," said Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald.       

Volunteers were recognized for their service by Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Third Circuit Chief Judge Greg Nakamura, Chief Court Administrator Lester Oshiro, and Deputy Chief Court Administrators Cheryl Salmo and Dawn West.  

The individual attorneys who were honored are: Francis Alcain, Lincoln Ashida, Chris Bridges, Michael Garbarino, Kenneth Goodenow, Jo Anne Goya, Belinda Hall, Doug Halsted, Paul Hamano, Jill Hasegawa, Ray Hasegawa, Charles Heaukulani, William Heflin, Mahilani Hiatt, Ted Hong, Austin Hsu, Michael Kagami, Haaheo Kahoohalahala, Edith Kawai, Jo Kim, Nelson Kinoshita, Al Konishi, Peter Kubota, Breann Larios, Bruce Larson, Justin Lee, Dwayne Lerma, Shaunda Liu, Jacky Mena, Jeff Ng, Jennifer Ng, Michelle Oishi, Danny Patel, Melody Parker, Christopher Rothfus, Jill Razov, Joy San Buenaventura, Chris Schlueter, Steven Strauss, Andrew Son, Albert Thompson, Sylvia Wan, Molly Ward, Jennifer Wharton, Zachary Wingert, Jay Yoshimoto, and Jennifer Zelko-Schlueter.

Also acknowledged was AmeriCorps Advocate Katie Kamelamela, who, through the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, organizes the Self-Help Center at the Hilo Courthouse each week.  

"I am pleased by the support the Hawaii County Bar Association and our local attorneys have given to this effort," said Laura Knudsen, Managing Attorney of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii's Hilo Office. "Every week, Hawaii Island residents use the Hilo Self-Help Center to gain information and receive procedural support in navigating the court system so that they may represent themselves in their legal affairs. With the donation of their time and expertise, today's honorees are helping to make access to justice a reality for our Hawaii Island community."  

The Chief Justice and Knudsen also thanked the Hawaii County 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.
Hilo Self-Help Center volunteer attorneys were recognized for assisting more than 1,100 people in 2017, an increase of over 30 percent from 2016. Those recognized at the January 8 Hawaii County Bar Association (HCBA) meeting include, from the left: Michelle Oishi, Paul Hamano, Ryan Caday (obscured). First Row (seated): Sherry Tavares (HCBA Vice-President & President-Elect), Peter Kubota, William Heflin, Peter Steinberg, Jennifer Zelko, Christopher Schluter. Second row: Shaunda Liu, Alfred Lerma, Jo Anne Goya, Jackie Mena, Jill Hasegawa, Per Diem Judge Mahi Hiatt, Third Circuit Chief Judge Greg K. Nakamoto, Molly Ward, Lincoln Ashida, Per Diem Judge Bruce Larson, Jeffrey Ng (HCBA President). Third row: Ray Hasegawa, Per Diem Judge Robert Crudele, Andy Son, Zachary Wingert, Justin Lee, and Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. 


11th Annual Marshallese Education Day
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii advises residents receiving health insurance through the Affordable Care Act to file taxes

If you received advanced premium tax credits for health insurance through the Healthcare.gov marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act, please file your taxes to reconcile your premium tax credits. Advanced premium tax credits lowered your monthly premiums. You will need your 1095-A form and IRS Form 8962. You can obtain the 1095-A form from your on-line Healthare.gov account.
You must file your taxes even if you are not required to do so. If you do not file taxes, you may be ineligible for future advanced premium tax credits. This ineligibility may increase your monthly payments.
If you have any questions, please contact the Marketplace at 1-800-318-2596. If you have any issues, Legal Aid may be able to assist. You can contact Legal Aid at 808-536-4302. If you need free help filing for taxes, you can visit www.hawaiitaxhelp.org or www.taxaidehi.org/site-information for a list of other tax assistance resources.

Legal Aid welcomes new staff

Ben Pittenger, Maui Staff Attorney 
Jessica "Jaycee" Yamashita, Hilo Staff Attorney 
Lori Anne Richards, Hilo Paralegal 
Caitlin Humphreys, Honolulu Housing Staff Attorney 

L-R: Jessica, Lori Anne, and Ben


Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room Volunteers

Thank you to the law firm of Chun Kerr LLP for adopting the month of January and to the Hawaii Association for Justice for adopting the month of February to volunteer at the Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room. 

Hawaii Association for Justice members Gilbert Doles, Dan Colon, Sasha Georgiades (AmeriCorps Advocate), Matthew Winter, and Sue Hansen volunteer at the Honolulu Access to Justice Room.

Hilo Court Self-Help Center Volunteers

Thank you to the volunteer attorneys at the Hilo Court Self-Help Center for their dedication.
Al Konshi volunteered 33 times in 2017 and helped over 200 people, about 20% of the center's clients.  Jennifer Wharton volunteered 18 times.  Austin Hsu volunteered 14 times  and provided tech support and helped set up the center's router.  Jackie Mena volunteered 12 times and also provided tech support for the center's computer problems. 
Thank you to Bill Heflin for not only volunteering 14 times last year but also for recruiting volunteers to help. 

"I believe having the Self-Help Center is very helpful for those who seek & need  the help. Keep doing what you folks are doing. Thank you very much."-Hilo SHC visitor
Legal Aid Pun of the Month

Credit: Alexis Mukaida, Honolulu AmeriCorps member