Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
May 27, 2016

This Memorial Day weekend, we pause to thank the many men and women who gave their lives in service to the country. 

"Building a Just Society"
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"Know Your Rights" education at the Hawaii State Library

Dominic Jancaterino (AmeriCorps Advocate) helps teach the importance of financial literacy at the Hawaii State Library.

In partnership with the Hawaii Public Library, AmeriCorps member Dominic Jancaterino (Asset Protection Unit) and managing attorney Dan O'Meara provided a "Know Your Rights" presentation at the Hawaii State Library on " Financial Literacy : Understanding credit reports, budgets, and debt collection practices."

Dan O'Meara (asset unit managing attorney) takes questions from the audience.

Feedback from the audience surveys were reflective of the great job and work that Dom and Dan put in to help educate the public about their rights and responsibilities.

"Nice program . . . Informative, easy to understand, doesn't use lawyer speak."
"Excellent, I really have to look at my credit score and the info presented."
"Very informative, I learned alot!"

Hawaii well represented at national Equal Justice Conference

Legal Aid board member Regan Iwao (center) takes a break from the action to share ideas with pro bono attorneys Derek Kobayashi and Shannon Wack. Photo credit: ABA Center for Pro Bono

Legal Aid's Executive Director M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina joined members of the Hawaii State Bar Association's Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services to the Public and Hawaii Judiciary staff at the Equal Justice Conference in Chicago, Illinois. 

Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald offers his thoughts on why partnerships are important to the Judiciary.

Together with staff from the  Administrative Office of Illinois Courts, Nalani presented on " The Importance of Collaboration with the Courts in Building an Effective Access to Justice Movement" and also on "Policies and Program Culture: Could They Be Hampering Your Program's Future Leadership?

Nearly 1,000 judges, attorneys, and court personnel attended the national conference. 
Legal aid helps expecting mother maintain her benefits
Legal Aid Leeward office staff attorney Maile Shimabukuro recently helped her client maintain much needed benefits. Wendy who  is part-Hawaiian, had recently been released from jail, and was working on improving her life.  She was also expecting a child.   Unfortunately, the Department of Human Services (DHS) terminated her welfare benefits for failing to comply with treatment.  Legal Aid agreed to represent Wendy at her appeals hearing.  Legal Aid argued that she was unable to comply with treatment due to reasons beyond her control, ie, there was a delay in her being approved for QUEST health insurance, and her doctor canceled an appointment due to a traffic emergency that blocked the roads.  

Fortunately, Wendy prevailed at her hearing, and her benefits were restored.

A happy Wendy after her hearing restoring her benefits.

The Legal Aid Society of Hawai´i extends its gratitude to Cades Schutte for being a member of the Leadership Circle and for its committment to our vision of   "Building a Just Society." The firm also provided volunteer attorneys to staff the Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room during the month of May.

Jodi Shin Yamamoto (Legal Aid Board President), M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina (Legal Aid Executive Director), and Regan Iwao (Legal Aid Board Member) present the award to Elijah Yip, accepting on behalf of Cades Schutte. Elijah is also a member of the Legal Aid Board of Directors. 

Hawaii Ranks Third in Nationwide Access to Justice Study
Posted on May 11, 2016
Hawaii State Judiciary Press Release

HONOLULU, HI - The  Justice Index 2016 Findings, just released by the National Center for Access to Justice, ranks Hawaii among the top three states in the country for practices aimed at making access to justice a reality for all people. The report measures the accessibility of each state's justice system in four categories: attorney access for low-income litigants; support for self-represented litigants; support for litigants with limited language proficiency; and support for people with disabilities.

"We are very pleased that we are being recognized for providing Hawaii's residents with some of the highest levels of service in the country," said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. "The Justice Index Report not only helps educate the public about the challenges and unmet need for legal assistance that exists in our legal system nationwide, but also raises awareness of the many resources available. Increasing access to justice requires a collaborative effort. We are so grateful to all those who are committed and dedicated to making 100% access a reality for all."

Hawaii was  number one in the country for providing support for people with limited English proficiency (LEP). The State Judiciary's  Office on Equality and Access to the Courts (OEAC) has improved and increased the services available to Hawaii's growing LEP population. The Judiciary annually provides interpreting services for LEP clients in as many as 45 different languages. OEAC also conducts statewide mandatory staff training on language access services for all Judiciary staff, so that the Judiciary can uphold the highest standard of service.

"Language access has always been a priority for us. These findings are the result of the commitment of our OEAC team and the 382 interpreters who are part of the Judiciary's Court Interpreter Certification Program," explained Rodney Maile, Administrative Director of the Hawaii State Judiciary. "We are continuing to find ways to improve language access, and are currently working on translating court forms from English into the 12 to 14 languages most frequently encountered in our state courts."

Hawaii ranked in the top five for providing support to self-represented litigants. The Hawaii State Judiciary together with the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission and various community partners opened  Self-Help Centersin every circuit in the state, where parties who cannot afford an attorney for their civil legal cases can get information from volunteer attorneys. The Judiciary has worked with the Bar organizations on each island to increase the hours of operation and number of volunteers available to assist individuals who cannot afford an attorney. Since the first Self-Help Center opened in 2011, volunteer attorneys and AmeriCorps Advocates have assisted more than 12,000 people, at almost no cost to the public.

The Hawaii State Judiciary also partnered with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Hawaii State Bar Association to  make self-help interactive court forms  available online. Twenty-three of the most frequently used civil legal forms are now available online, accompanied by state-of-the-art software. This software takes users through a step-by-step question and answer process to help complete the forms easily and correctly. For those who do not own a personal computer or have Internet access, the Hawaii State Public Library System provides access to these "A2J" (Access to Justice) self-help forms at locations statewide.

Hawaii  ranked top seven in providing support for people with disabilities. The Hawaii State Judiciary is recognized for providing website information on how to request an accommodation, using only certified sign language interpreters in court, and providing information on how to file a complaint for anyone who has difficulty accessing court facilities or services because of a disability. Accommodations covered by the courts may include, but are not limited to, modifications to schedules to assist those with disabilities, the cost of providing sign language interpreters or computer assisted real-time transcription for persons who are Deaf or have a hearing impairment.

Chief Justice Recktenwald thanked Access to Justice Commission Chair, Justice Simeon R. Acoba, and his predecessor, Judge Daniel R. Foley, for their leadership on the Commission. He went on to say, "None of this would be possible without the leadership and hard work of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission as well as our partnerships with the Hawaii State Bar Association, county bar associations, William S. Richardson School of Law, Hawaii Justice Foundation, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii, AmeriCorps, and other legal service providers. I would especially like to acknowledge the work of hundreds of attorneys who have volunteered their time and talents to help those with the greatest need of legal support."

For more information about the Hawaii State Judiciary's programs and services available to the public, please visit our website at  www.courts.state.hi.us, or click on the " Language Access", " ADA", and " Access to Justice" tabs. For more information about the Justice Index findings, please visit  www.justiceindex.org or view  NCAJ's Justice Index 2016 Press Release.