Supreme Court Adopts Continuing Education Rules

Chief Justice Ronald T. Y. Moon announced today that the Hawai`i Supreme Court has adopted new rules that will require active licensed attorneys to obtain professionalism training throughout the course of their careers. Under the new rules that will go into effect on January 1, 2010, all actively practicing Hawai`i attorneys will be required to complete at least three credit hours of mandatory continuing professional education each year and to report the number of credit hours completed as part of their annual license renewal process.

"The new rules ensure that attorneys receive continued professionalism training throughout their careers. Such training will not only benefit the legal profession, but, as importantly, will benefit the public at large," said Chief Justice Moon.

The rules require that attorneys receive annual training on professional education subjects, such as legal ethics, the proper administration of client trust accounts, bias awareness and prevention, and making the justice system more accessible to the public. Currently, attorneys are examined on professional responsibility and matters of substantive law before they are licensed to practice in Hawai`i and are also required to complete a professionalism course no later than the end of the year after they begin to practice. However, while most attorneys voluntarily attend continuing legal education courses on a regular basis, there is no requirement that Hawai`i attorneys attend mandatory professionalism training after they complete the initial requirements for licensure.

In addition to mandatory professionalism training, the new rules also encourage attorneys to voluntarily complete at least nine additional credit hours of legal training each year on a wider range of subjects related to their practices. Attorneys will also be required to report the number of voluntary credit hours of legal training completed when they renew their licenses annually.

Chief Justice Moon explained that the new rules are the result of a lengthy review conducted by the Hawai`i Supreme Court's Commission on Professionalism, established in 2005 and consisting of more than 20 members, including judges, attorneys, and members of the public. The supreme court circulated the Commission's proposed new rules for public comment and subsequently revised them based upon the comments received.

"I extend my sincere gratitude to the members of the Commission for their thoughtful consideration and hard work in crafting the new rules. I extend a special mahalo to Associate Justice James E. Duffy, Jr., who chairs the Commission, and Intermediate Appellate Court Associate Judge Daniel R. Foley, attorney Calvin Young, and Richardson School of Law professor Jill Ramsfield, who led the subcommittee that focused on this important issue," Chief Justice Moon said. He also thanked the Hawai`i State Bar Association, which will assist in the administration of the continuing education requirements and will help to ensure that the required courses are readily available to Hawai`i attorneys at a reasonable cost, both in-person, via on-line or through audio, video or other technologically-delivered courses or activities.

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Contact: Marsha Kitagawa, 539-4909

For more information, contact the public affairs office at 808-539-4909 or via email at pao@courts.state.hi.us.

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