Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
November 30, 2017

The Hawaii Supreme Court convened in special session to honor the late  Betty M. Vitousek, former Senior Family Court Judge and Legal Aid founder.

This plaque was presented to Judge Vitousek's family on behalf of the Legal Aid staff and board members. In picking up the plaque, the store owner shared a story behind it. The lady who made the plaque was once a Legal Aid client. As she began to read each note on the card, she realized who the plaque was honoring and wanted others to know how grateful she was for Judge Vitousek and for Legal Aid in the community.

In Memory of  the Honorable Betty M. Vitousek
 Thank You

Charlene D. Anaya
Richard R. Clifton
Virginia Lea Crandall & David Schulmeister
Rhonda Griswold
Susan & Donald James
Susan & Richard Kowen
Judy S. Osato

"Building a Just Society"
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Executive Director's Corner

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I noticed a man spraying and wiping down an entryway to a business on Nu'uanu Avenue on our way to work. We commented to each other that it seemed a bit unusual and continued on our way. The next day, we noticed it again, this time it was a different man, but part of the same group, who was wringing a towel out. As we've driven down Nu'uanu Avenue each morning, we have watched more closely and seen glimpses of this small group of people folding up their things, wiping up the entryway to the businesses, and packing up. They laugh and talk as they go about their business as it is just natural to be sleeping outside on hard pavement each night and waking up to go about their day.
Each morning now, I look forward to seeing this group and their daily activities. While the impact of homelessness and poverty is ever so present and weighs heavy in my heart, I am more in awe of their survival and that they can have smiles on their faces each morning and take to cleaning the area just as if they owned the businesses. I think of the businesses that are located there and how it seems that they are ok with it. And I see that there is kindness and love in this world, in sometimes the most simple of acts.
As we move into this season of giving, I hope that we can take some time each day to be kind and to share our love in the world.

Health Navigators on Civil Beat Podcast and Hawaii Public Radio

Connie Liu, managing attorney for community engagement and Ronnette Ome, Health Navigator took part in Civil Beat's podcast to help residents sign up for affordable health insurance through the Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.  Listen to the Podcast

Connie was also on Hawaii Public Radio's "The Conversation" with Chris Vandercook to talk more about the Marketplace's open enrollment period and answer questions.   Listen to "The Conversation"

Health Insurance and Immigration Fair at the Towers of Kuhio Park
Legal Aid's Health Navigators and Immigration Unit staff held a Health Insurance and Immigration Fair at the Towers of Kuhio Park.  Health Navigators helped people apply for insurance from noon-7:00 pm, while immigration staff helped people apply for employment authorization cards from 1:00-3:00 pm. The Navigators enrolled 56 people into Marketplace insurances and 61 people into Medicaid insurances.  

Open enrollment for Marketplace insurances started on November 1 and ends on December 15. Legal Aid Navigators will continue to provide services at the Towers of Kuhio Park Hospitality Room, Monday-Thursday from 9:00-4:30 P.M.

Legal Aid Health Navigators Sepe Mongkeya, Aloma Nelson, Ronnette Ome, and Cinder Sonis

The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii's Health Care Navigators can provide additional assistance for free.  To make an appointment, please call (808) 536-4302, Monday-Friday from 9:00 - 11:30 A.M. and 1:00 - 3:30 P.M. or visit  www.legalaidhawaii.org  for more information. 

Epilepsy Foundation Conference
Connie Liu and AmeriCorps member Alexis Mukaida presented at the Epilepsy Foundation Conference at the Queen's Medical Center Auditorium; providing a general overview about Legal Aid services.

Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center Hosts State Department Fellow

The Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center served as a host organization for Mr. Davit Oboladze, under the Professional Fellows Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The goal of the program is to: give leaders from strategically important nations first-hand experience in the U.S. system; share legislative and regulatory best practices from the U.S., Eurasia and Southeast Asia; and create lasting professional and personal networks between U.S. and partner nations.
Davit is from the country of Georgia and is a Lawyer for an NGO that supports civil society reforms in the field of citizenship and migration. He provides free legal assistance to migrants and stateless persons within Georgia. He recently launched a project that provides free legal assistance- via skype and phone- with the aim of making legal assistance more accessible to migrant groups. He writes:
I am Davit Oboladze, a Professional Fellows Program (PFP) Fellow from Georgia. My fellowship was at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (LASH). During my fellowship, I got acquainted with U.S. legislation on Immigration and Domestic Violence issues. I worked on real cases on DVI, TRO, and EAD clinic. Under the supervision of the supervisor, I have interviewed clients, did their paper work, gathered necessary information, prepared cases, and carried out legal research. Furthermore, I attended family and immigration court hearings. During my stay in Hawaii, I have met many interesting people, among them, representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations, experts and practitioners. The experiences shared by them have been of immense value to me.
During my internship, I have been especially interested in the issue of domestic violence. It is an issue that is acute both in Hawaii as well as in Georgia. Domestic violence is one of the most severe and extensive forms of abuse. It occurs across the world, in various countries and affects people of all economic status. 
The fight against domestic violence is a top priority for the Georgian Government and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Ministry actively cooperates with NGOs, international organizations and other institutions in order to combat domestic violence. Given the fact that the organization I represent is actively engaged in Domestic Violence issues in Georgia, I firmly believe that the experience and knowledge that I have gained throughout this fellowship will stand relevant and useful for me and also for my organization. It provides me the opportunity to better contribute and support victims of DV in Georgia. Therefore, this issue becomes my inspiration when I was working on my outbound project.
I consider myself fortunate of becoming a PFP fellow. It has given me the opportunity to live with a wonderful host family and get acquainted with the American way of life; meet fellows from various countries and share our cultures; the opportunity to work with amazing people/team of professionals who are doing a commendable job, and to become a member of the HIJC team.
Kauai Attorneys Recognized for Assisting 450 Island Residents
Source: Hawaii State Judiciary
Date: 11/29/17
Click to view the full article

LIHUE, HI - Nine attorneys were recognized for their volunteer service to the residents of Kauai during the Kauai County Bar Association meeting in Lihue on November 29. These attorneys provided free legal information to more than 450 people who visited the Self-Help Center at the Kauai Courthouse in 2017.

The courthouse Self-Help Center was established in October 2011 as part of the Hawaii State Judiciary's commitment to help people who must represent themselves in civil cases because they cannot afford an attorney. Since opening, more than 2,600 people have received assistance, with volunteer attorneys providing legal information on civil matters, such as landlord-tenant cases, temporary restraining orders and divorce.   

"I am grateful to the attorneys who volunteer their time at our Self-Help Center, assisting individuals who are representing themselves in court. The generous donation of legal expertise by these attorneys has been essential to advancing our goal of ensuring that all Hawaii residents have equal access to justice," said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.       

The attorneys who were honored are: Nancy Budd, Katherine Caswell, Kai Lawrence, Allison Lee, Shoshana O'Brien, Adam Roversi, Mia Shiraishi, Sherman Shiraishi, and Aaron Kakinami, who passed away earlier this year.

AmeriCorps Advocate Sonia Song who, through the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, runs the Kauai Courthouse Self-Help Center, was also acknowledged.

"I am so pleased by the support the Kauai County Bar Association and our local attorneys have given to this effort," said Linda Vass, Managing Attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii on Kauai. "Every week, island residents use the Self-Help Center to gain information on how to file court papers and be active participants in legal actions. The Kauai Courthouse 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.  We appreciate our local bar association members who have gotten behind the effort with the donation of their time. Today's honorees are helping to make justice accessible to those in our community who cannot afford a lawyer. 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 in the form of providing court forms, reviewing court documents for interpretation or to insure that the forms have been completed correctly. Additionally, volunteers try to answer as many procedural questions as possible.

Kauai attorneys were recognized for their volunteer service to the community at the November 29 Kauai County Bar Association meeting. They provided free legal information to more than 450 people in 2017. First row from left: Mai Shiraishi, Sonia Song (AmeriCorps Advocate), Sherman Shiraishi, Katherine Caswell, Nancy Budd, Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald.  Second row from left: Kai Lawrence, Allison Lee, Judge Kathleen Watanabe.  Third row: Brandon Kimura, Deputy Administrative Director of the Courts.   
Before I came to Legal Aid , I was so overwhelmed and reaching out for someone to be able to assist me in getting my life back, the life I once had.

Legal Aid helped me with divorce counseling and having an advocate through the process of my divorce. I was married for 15 years and it was definitely an emotional, roller-coaster ride for me. Anna [Alexander] made me feel confident and at ease through her intelligence and knowledge legally and emotionally that it was going to be okay. Anytime I was in doubt or questionable, she was always just a phone call away. 

Due to Legal Aid's help , I was able to be legally divorced and now have the ability to move forward in my life with peace of mind. And know that the quality of assistance I received was amazing. Great service to the community and when I at any time face other challenges in my life, they're the first I'd call. No matter what type of legal hardship or burden you're experiencing, they're there for you. The guidance, counseling, advice and advocating is quite exceptional. My experience was 5 stars and I'd recommend their services to all others.
Kona, Hilo
Kona Attorneys Honored for Helping 600 West Hawaii Residents
Source: Hawaii State Judiciary
Date: November 8, 2017

KEALAKEKUA, HI - Thirty-six attorneys were recognized during the Kona Self-Help Recognition Awards on November 7 for voluntarily providing free legal information to 600-plus Hawaii Island residents who sought help at the recently expanded Kona Courthouse Self-Help Center in 2017. The number of people who sought and received services increased by more than 27 percent from 2016 to 2017. 

The Self-Help Center was established in October 2013 as part of the Hawaii State Judiciary's commitment to help people who must represent themselves in civil cases each year because they cannot afford an attorney. Since opening, it has assisted more than 2,000 people, with volunteer attorneys providing approximately 760 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.

"The attorneys who volunteer in the Center provide invaluable information. I am grateful for their commitment to ensuring that everyone's voice is heard in our civil courts," said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. "We are looking forward to being able to expand these services once the Kona Judiciary Complex is completed in 2019 with a newly designed space for the Self-Help Center." 

The attorneys who were honored are: Brit Barker, James Biven, Bob Borns, Jason Braswell, Ann Datta, Katherine Deleon, Porter DeVries, Wendy DeWeese, Chris Eggert, Edward Fetzer, Stephen Frye, Gerald Garcia, Fred Giannini, Catherine Gibson, Jennifer Heimgartner, R. Hermann Heimgartner, Dawn Henry, Kauanoe Jackson, Dean Kauka, Andrew Kennedy, Susan Kim, Carol Kitaoka, Frederick Macapinlac, Charles McCreary, Charles Murray, Shawn Nakoa, John Olson, Peter Olson, Donna Payesko, Daniel Peters, Mitch Roth, Joanna Sokolow, Kimberly Taniyama, Robert Triantos, Mark Van Pernis, and Georgette Yaindl. 

Also acknowledged were Laura Cushman, Vita Zamedyanskiy and Sarah Kelly, the AmeriCorps Advocates who, through the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, run the Self-Help Center. 

"It has been a year of progress for self-help services in the West Hawaii community," said Dawn Henry, managing attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii in Kona. "Support from our local attorneys continues to be strong, and the Judiciary transformed our facility from a Self-Help Desk to a Self-Help Center, providing a more comfortable and inviting environment for users. This is such a valuable service to our community, and the feedback that we receive from visits is overwhelmingly positive. We continue to encourage those with legal questions to access the center."

The Chief Justice and Ms. Henry 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.

Akamai Living Outreach 
The Akamai Living Outreach was hosted by HMSA and the County of Hawaii's Department of Parks & Recreation and Elderly Recreation Services. The Legal Aid Kona office was one of many vendors that showcased what services are available to the community. They had a live orchestra, hula, and last but not least, Zumba lessons. 

Tahisha Depontes, Lisa Webb, and Vita Zamedyanskiy at the Akamai Living Outreach.


Legal Aid's Low Income Tax Clinic and Volunteer  Income Tax Assistance Program ending in 2017
Legal Aid's Low Income Tax Clinic and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program have helped hundreds of low to moderate-income individuals and families prepare and file their federal and Hawaii income tax returns for free along with helping settle disputes with the IRS.  Both programs will not continue in 2018. 
For a list of other tax assistance resources, please visit  http://www.hawaiitaxhelp.org/
Ama zon donates to Legal Aid Society Of Hawaii

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