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Kona Self-Help Center Celebrates 10 years and 4,100 Free Legal Consultations

Posted on May 9, 2024 in Featured News, News & Reports
Attorneys holding certificates of appreciation: Matt Sylva, Stephen Frye, Brit Barker, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Donna Payesko, Patrick Wong, Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra (ret.), Scott Shishido, and Third Circuit Chief Judge Robert Kim, gathered in the Kona Courthouse, 01/19/2024.

At the Kona Courthouse Self-Help Center’s 10-year anniversary, volunteer attorneys received certificates of appreciation for the many hours they donated assisting Hawai‘i residents with civil legal matters. From left: Matt Sylva, Stephen Frye, Brit Barker, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Donna Payesko, Patrick Wong, Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra (ret.), Scott Shishido, and Third Circuit Chief Judge Robert Kim.

Hawaiʻi’s legal community celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Kona Courthouse Self-Help service at an event sponsored by the West Hawaiʻi Bar Association on January 19. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald and Third Circuit Chief Judge Robert D.S. Kim honored attorneys for their time providing free consultations to people who sought legal assistance, many of whom could not afford a lawyer.

“Since October 2013, the Kona Self-Help Center has provided legal information and assistance to 4,165 individuals, at almost no cost to the state,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald. “This is only possible because of the amazing partnership between the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society, and AmeriCorp staff who help support the Center, and the dedicated local bar who has provided countless volunteer hours on various civil matters ranging from evictions to divorce. I am so very grateful to the attorneys who volunteer their time at our centers. Your generosity has been essential to ensuring equal access to justice in our courts.”

The individual attorneys who were honored include: Brit Barker, Edward Fetzer, Stephen Frye, Judy Howard, Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra (ret.), Carol Kitaoka, Emil Macasinag, Donna Payesko, Scott Shishido, Matthew Sylva, and Patrick Wong.

“The West Hawaiʻi Bar Association is hoping that 2024 is a big year and renewed beginning for the Self-Help Center in Kona,” said West Hawaiʻi Bar President Andrew Kennedy. “We are looking forward to reopening after several years of closure due the pandemic. The Keahuolū Courthouse is a great facility, and we are excited to once again offer this service in-person to the community.”

Hawaiʻi’s courthouse self-help centers were established as part of the Judiciary’s commitment to increasing access to justice in the courts. In Kona, these services were initially offered at a Self-Help “Desk” in the basement of the former Keakealani Courthouse in Kealakekua. Through collaboration of the Judiciary, the Hawai‘i Access to Justice Commission, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the West Hawai‘i Bar Association, and the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i, the Self-Help Desk was, for six years, a key resource in the effort to increase access to justice for the community.

Today, individuals seeking legal assistance for civil (non-criminal) matters may visit The Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra Self-Help Center at the Keahuolū Courthouse. The center is named after the Third Circuit’s retired chief judge in recognition of the pivotal role he played expanding access to justice in Hawai‘i by establishing the original Kona Self-Help Desk. The center has a conference room and two smaller meeting rooms, with easy access to the courthouse law library and other resources to support the legal needs of the community.

Volunteer attorneys are available in-person every second and fourth Wednesday (except holidays) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and by phone all other Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (except holidays). Individuals who would like to speak with a volunteer attorney in-person may go to the Self-Help Center located on the first floor of the Keahuolū Courthouse and check in with the AmeriCorps Advocate. Those who prefer a phone consultation may call 808-909-2843 to speak with an AmeriCorps Advocate who will connect them with a volunteer attorney. The attorneys provide limited legal information on civil matters related to landlord-tenant cases, family cases, and other district court matters.

Attorneys interested in volunteering at a self-help center, or seeking other pro bono opportunities, are invited to visit the Hawaiʻi Access to Justice Commission website, and click the menu item “How to Help.”

For more information on the courthouse self-help centers, visit the Self-Help Centers page on the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary’s website, under the “Self-Help” tab.