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Hawaii Access to Justice Conference 2016

Posted on Jun 24, 2016 in Featured News
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Pictured above are former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, Jonathan Lippman (left), Hawaii State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald (center), and Justice Simeon R. Acoba (ret.) and Hawaii Access to Justice Commission Chair (right), after providing opening remarks at the Hawaii Access to Justice Conference

The Hawaii State Judiciary and Hawaii Access to Justice Commission continue to grow a network and expand outreach

HONOLULU, HI – Conference attendees were invigorated and inspired by the Hawaii Access to Justice Conference, “Pursuit of Meaningful Justice for All,” held on June 24, 2016, at the William S. Richardson School of Law. The conference, sponsored by the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, provided an opportunity to engage the community and legal service providers on initiatives and community programs that expand access to the civil justice system and aim to resolve underlying issues.

“Ensuring that every person’s voice is heard when their legal rights are threatened is not a luxury, but the very foundation of our court system and democracy,” said Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, in his opening remarks. “We are talking about fundamental human needs—housing, health care, and the ability to participate in raising one’s child. That is why we are here today—to ensure we are doing everything possible to give each voice, no matter what their income, a chance to be heard. Thanks to everyone here and many others across this state. We have come very far, though we still have much work to do.”

“A powerful grassroots effort has grown into a movement,” said Associate Justice Simeon R. Acoba (ret.) and Hawaii Access to Justice Commission Chair. “It started about 10 years ago as an Access to Justice hui, but as I look around this room, I cannot be more thankful and proud of the hundreds of people who have come together and are committed to providing justice to all.”

Hawaii’s work on access to justice is being recognized across the country. Last month, Hawaii was ranked third in the country for its practices aimed at making justice a reality for all, by the National Center for Access to Justice’s 2016 Justice Index. Hawaii has gained momentum through events such as today’s Hawaii Access to Justice Conference, and through the teamwork and partnerships forged along the way among the Hawaii State Judiciary, Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, Hawaii State Bar Association, county bar associations, William S. Richardson School of Law, Hawaii Justice Foundation, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii, AmeriCorps, and other legal services providers and partners in the community and state government.

The Hawaii State Judiciary and Access to Justice Commission partnered with the Hawaii State Bar Association and Legal Aid Society of Hawaii to make Self-Help Centers available in courthouses statewide. Parties who cannot afford an attorney can get information and advice about their civil legal case from volunteer attorneys at the Self-Help Centers. The Judiciary has worked with the state and county bar associations to increase the hours of operation and number of volunteers available to assist. Since the first Self-Help Center opened on Kauai in 2011, volunteer attorneys and AmeriCorps Advocates have assisted more than 12,400 people, at almost no cost to the public.

Another collaborative access to justice initiative between the Hawaii State Judiciary, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, and the Hawaii State Bar Association is the “A2J” (Access to Justice) self-help interactive court forms project. Twenty-three of the most frequently used civil legal forms are available online, accompanied by state-of-the-art software. This software takes users through a step-by-step question and answer process to help complete the forms easily and accurately. For those who do not own a personal computer or have Internet access, the Hawaii State Public Library System provides access to this A2J software at locations statewide.

“Throughout the country, economic value studies have shown that increased provision of legal services to those of low and moderate incomes benefits not only individuals, but also the economy,” added Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. “Studies are showing that the time and money invested pays off at an exceptional rate: a New York study suggested there was a $5 return to the economy for every dollar spent on civil legal services.”

Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, was the keynote speaker at the 2016 Hawaii Access to Justice Conference. As the state’s Chief Judge, he championed equal access to justice issues in New York and around the country and took the leadership role in identifying permanent funding streams for civil legal services.

The conference also offered breakout workshops on topics such as: Engaging the Community in Access to Justice; Landlord-Tenant Mediation, Working Together to Prevent Homelessness; Self-Help Center Attorney Training and Attorney Opportunities; Implicit Bias and Access to Justice; Native Hawaiian Traditional and Customary Practices and Water Rights; Introduction and Training for Hawaii Pro Bono Online; Affordable Housing Issues; and Innovations in Expanding Access to Justice.

For more information about the Access to Justice Commission, initiatives, Self-Help Centers, and the Hawaii State Judiciary’s vision, please visit the “Access to Justice” tab on the Hawaii State Judiciary’s website at www.courts.state.hi.us.