Skip to Main Nav Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer Content

Family Court Drug Court Graduation Celebration Extra Special

Posted on Aug 27, 2020 in Featured News, News & Reports, Press Releases


Wailuku, HI – Two Maui moms — Sunshine Puaoi (left) and Karissa Pietzke (right)  — celebrated sobriety and reunification with their children along with graduating from Family Court Drug Court recently.

Photo of graduates and Amy Hanaialii.The proud graduates appeared at the first hybrid ceremony in Second Circuit District Family Court. Presiding Judge Adrianne Heely and a small, socially distanced group of judges, staff, and invited guests were in the courtroom with the graduates. Watching via videoconference were almost 30 people, including social service support personnel, judges, court staff, and program alumni and current participants.

Surprise guest Amy Hanaialii (on video monitor) provided heartfelt words of support and congratulations to the graduates, and wowed the crowd with her signature song, “Palehua.” Smiles and tears graced the faces of many throughout her stirring performance. Hanaialii is a six-time Grammy nominee and has won 18 Na Hoku Hanohano awards throughout her illustrious career.

“Ms. Hanaialii’s participation added an extra special touch to this 35th graduation ceremony,” said Judge Heely. “We really appreciated her gracious generosity. It meant so much to everyone in attendance, especially our graduates.”

Puaoi and Pietzke were also honored by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono. Her office presented each with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.

During their remarks, Puaoi and Pietzke spoke of their struggles and of their successes, thanks to the Family Court Drug Court program and the many agencies and individuals who helped them along the way. They said they are thrilled to have their children back from foster care, and have found jobs and housing.

Photo of Judge Adrianne Heely and graduates.“Sunshine and Karissa have persevered through incredibly tough times and are restarting their lives with their children and the support of many who are determined to help them succeed,” said Judge Heely (pictured with graduates).

Family Court Drug Court is a therapeutic specialty court program that supports juveniles and Child Welfare Service clients suffering from addiction. The goal is to keep families together by avoiding foster care and incarceration through comprehensive services, monitoring, and frequent court appearances.

“Keeping Family Court Drug Court going during the pandemic has been challenging,” Judge Heely said. “Participants have the option of attending their bi-weekly hearings remotely or in-person.

“Our staff has done an amazing job of keeping our clients engaged and motivated. With the help of Paul Tonnessen and the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center, we were able to buy household items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants, gas cards, books, school supplies and clothing for the children,” Judge Heely said. “Those in compliance with the program also got to “Spin ‘em and Win ‘em” for treats or gift cards.

“I especially want to thank our administrator Meridith Russell, program coordinator Michelle Boughner, and social worker Charnell Casil for their incredibly hard work and for caring so deeply for our clients,” added Judge Heely.

For more information on Family Court Drug Court, contact Michelle Boughner at 808-244-2884 or

For more information, contact the Communications and Community Relations Office at 808-539-4909 or via email at

Subscribe to the Hawai'i State Judiciary mailing list for email notification of press releases and other announcements.