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2021 Jurists of the Year and Judiciary Employees Honored

Posted on Nov 1, 2021 in Featured News, News & Reports

Second Circuit Chief Judge Richard T. Bissen, Jr. and First Circuit Court Judge Paul B.K. Wong were presented with the 2021 Jurist of the Year Award by Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, at the Hawaii State Judiciary’s Statewide Incentive Awards Ceremony on October 29. The Judiciary also presented individual and group awards to employees who have distinguished themselves through exceptional service and accomplishments.

Second Circuit Chief Judge Richard T. Bissen, Jr. and First Circuit Court Judge Paul B.K. Wong received the 2021 Jurist of the Year Award on October 29 from Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. The presentations were part of the annual employee Incentive Awards Ceremony, which recognizes Judiciary personnel for improvements to court operations or programs and outstanding contributions to public service.

“Our community has faced extraordinary challenges with the pandemic, and these two judges have not only continued to maintain exceptional judicial competence throughout, but they have gone above and beyond to ensure that the Judiciary continues to provide vital services to the public while ensuring the safety of court users, judges, and staff,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald. “Their calm approach and confident, can-do attitudes enabled us to forge a clear path forward as we responded to the pandemic. In doing so, they have both exhibited superb leadership skills, and are well deserving of this recognition.”

Judge Bissen had a distinguished career in public service before his appointment to the Second Circuit Court by Gov. Linda Lingle in 2005. He is a graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law and has served as Maui County Prosecuting Attorney, as First Deputy Attorney General, and as the Director of Public Safety. Click here to view his Jurist of the Year proclamation.

Judge Wong was sworn in as Judge of the District Court of the First Circuit in 2012. He was appointed by Gov. David Y. Ige to the First Circuit Court in 2017 and currently presides over criminal felony cases. Click here to view Judge Wong’s Jurist of the Year proclamation.

The Jurist of the Year is selected annually by the Chief Justice from nominations submitted by Hawaii attorneys and Judiciary personnel. The award recognizes a full-time trial judge who exhibits exceptional judicial competence, evidenced by decisional quality; significant extra-judicial contributions to the administration of justice; and active participation in public service to the community at large.

In addition to honoring the two Jurists of the Year, the Hawaii State Judiciary presented individual and group awards to employees who have distinguished themselves through exceptional service and accomplishments. The recipients of this year’s awards are:

Distinguished Service Award (the Judiciary’s top award):

Karen T. Takahashi, Special Projects Coordinator, Legislative Coordinating/Special Projects Office

Jasmine M. Mau Mukai, Statewide Director of the Children’s Justice Centers of Hawai’i.

Meritorious Service Award:

Kari L. Yamashiro, Deputy Chief Court Administrator, Office of the Chief Court Administrator, Fifth Circuit.

Group Meritorious Service Award:

Adult/Juvenile Community Service & Restitution Unit, Virtual Community Service Pilot Project Team, First Circuit
Saifoloi Aganon, Raine Akutagawa, Jimi Coloma, Noah Eckart, Amanda King, Holly Lee, Jose Lim, Iris Nakama, Wenda Reeves, Sylvana Sam, Anita Tupouniua, Greg Uwono.

Coronavirus Emergency Grants Management Team
Terri Gearon, Financial Services Department; Ni Ho, Administrative Fiscal Office; Melody Kubo, Office of Equality and Access to the Courts; Tom Mick, Policy & Planning Department; Nancy Ralston, Office of the Administrative Director of the Courts; and Gary Teramae, Policy & Planning Department.

Division of Driver Education – Statewide
Honolulu Office:  Nickolas Alao, Lovely Ancheta, Kayleen Billimon, Yvette Cudal, Jason Dayuha, Erin Rose Ebia, Cheryl Knutson, Kathryn Nabeta, Allen Nakamura, Chris Nomura, Punahele Pires, Floridel Renon, Sarah Salas, Nathan Urabe, Adina Vallortigara, and Laurene Yonesaki
Maui Office:  Kimberly Awana, Kai Gibo, and Elicia Legsay
Hilo Office:  Ryan Kajikawa and Kelly Waiau
Kona Office:  Natalie Deisroth and Joseph Gusman
Kauai Office:  Rey Agcaoili and Beth Marie Anderson

IT Team, Second Circuit
Dean Ikioka, Austin Kozaki, and Vance Wakakuwa

Spirit of the Judiciary Award:

Rene N. Hanavan, Court Bailiff II, Kona District Court, Third Circuit

Matthew K. Palafox, Social Worker V, Supervisor Juvenile Client Services Branch Juvenile Intake and Probation Section, First Circuit.

Certificate of Commendation:

Scott A. Yamada, Judicial Clerk IV, Legal Documents Branch 2 Honolulu District Court, First Circuit

Malia M. Ferreira, Court Administrator, Court & Operational Support Services Branch, Second Circuit.

Group Certificate of Commendation:

District Court Probation Office, First Circuit
Unit 1:  Bryson Chock, Paula Chu, Christopher Lam, Summer Ledesma, Susan Watanabe
Unit 2:  Jessica Arata, Bertram Jung, Aja Keyes, Rezetta Mulitalo, Robert Sanchez
Clerical Unit:  Lisa Castro, Eden Chong, Annabel Ramos, Clara Shea, Tokie Simeon, Hong Ri Zenker

Fiscal Staff, Administrative Services Division, Third Circuit
Jill Asakura, Carmela Boteilho, Rena Dias Rubis Hazel Garcia, Susan Kohashi, Maile Lei Koyanagi, Ken Nagasako , Teresita Padamada, Laura Urubio

Award for Suggestions

John J. Hausler, Court Documents Clerk I, Court Operations Division, Legal Documents Branch 2 Hoʻokele Kapolei Service Center, First Circuit