In response to a specific recommendation and the findings on unmet legal needs contained in the 2007 report, "Achieving Access to Justice For Hawaii's People," the Hawai`i Supreme Court today adopted a new Supreme Court rule establishing an Access to Justice Commission. The purpose of the Commission, among other things, is to substantially increase access to justice in civil legal matters for low- and moderate-income residents.
"The successful implementation of the action-plan recommendations of the 2007 Access to Justice Hui's report will undoubtedly help the plight of those who seek access to justice," Chief Justice Moon said. "And, it is especially fitting that we launch the establishment of the Commission on Access to Justice on this day -- the 50th Anniversary of Law Day, which, this year, celebrates the freedoms we all enjoy because of 'the Rule of Law'." Chief Justice Moon added, "We in the judiciary look forward to working with other Commission members in helping to find concrete solutions to increasing access to justice for low- and moderate-income residents and, in turn, enhancing the public perception of the legal profession and reaffirming our commitment to the rule of law."
The report -- which was funded by the Hawai`i Justice Foundation and the Hawai`i State Bar Association (HSBA) and prepared by the Access to Justice Hui, a group comprised of representatives from several legal organizations -- found that only one in five low- and moderate-income Hawai`i residents have their legal needs met and that legal service providers are able to serve only one in three of those who contact them for assistance. According to the report, in addition to the inability to afford an attorney, many also face language and cultural barriers, and have little knowledge of their legal rights and the legal services available.
The new rule specifically provides that the Commission endeavor to meet the needs of low- and moderate-income Hawai`i residents by, among other things:
The rule seeks to achieve an equitable representation on the twenty-two member Commission by specifying the number of neighbor island members, lawyers, non-lawyers, and representatives from the various legal entities to be appointed to the Commission. The Chief Justice is responsible for appointing five state judges to serve on the Commission, the HSBA will appoint four of its members to the Commission, and the Hawai`i Consortium of Legal Service Providers will appoint six. The Hawai`i Justice Foundation, Dean of the University of Hawai`i Richardson School of Law, Hawai`i Paralegal Association, Governor, Attorney General, Senate President, and Speaker of the House are each entitled to serve on, or appoint one member to, the Commission.
The rule gives the Chief Justice the authority to designate himself or an associate justice to serve as chair of the Commission. Chief Justice Moon has indicated his intention to designate Associate Justice Simeon Acoba to serve as chair.
"Chief Justice Moon has been a prime mover in the Judiciary's efforts to afford equal access to the courts to those who, up until now, have faced barriers that have been insurmountable," Justice Acoba said. "We hope the Commission will bring a lasting institutional commitment to removing such obstacles for all in our statewide community."
Contact: Marsha Kitagawa, 539-4909