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2017 Pro Bono Celebration Honors Volunteer Attorneys and Student Essay Contest Winners

Posted on Oct 27, 2017 in Featured News


Group photograph of Raynette Ah Chong (center) receiving an award at the Hawaii Pro Bono Awards in 2017.

Raynette Ah Chong, the first-ever non-attorney honored at the Hawaii Pro Bono Awards, was recognized by the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice for her role as a representative of foster families in a case seeking adequate resources for care of foster children. From left to right is Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael Wilson, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Raynette Ah Chong, Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice Co-Executive Director Gavin Thornton, and Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin.

HONOLULU – In the last year, more than 1,200 people on Oahu were given legal advice by attorneys who volunteered their time to help those in need. Fifteen law firms and 48 attorneys were honored at the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission’s 2017 Pro Bono Celebration on October 26 in the Hawaii Supreme Court courtroom. Awards of $500 each were made to six high school students in the Commission’s 2017 essay and video contest.

Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Hawaii Access to Justice Commission Chair Justice Simeon Acoba (ret.) and Commissioner Judge Ronald Ibarra (ret.), along with Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael Wilson, Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, and Hawaii State Bar Association President Nadine Ando, took part in the annual ceremony, which recognizes the work of volunteer attorneys.

Local legal services providers nominated their awardees. The awardees and the organizations honoring them are:

Clare Hanusz and Kevin Block (American Civil Liberties Union); Lynne McGivern and Jill Hasegawa (Domestic Violence Action Center); Raynette Ah Chong (Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice); John Egan (Legal Aid Society of Hawaii); Johanna Chock-Tam (Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation); William Darrah (The Mediation Center of the Pacific, Inc.); Neva Keres (University of Hawaii Elder Law Program); and Jefferson Willard (Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii).

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin presented each awardee with a certificate from Gov. David Y. Ige.

Other volunteer attorneys, law firms, and non-profit organizations were recognized for their pro bono service at the Honolulu District Court and the Kapolei Family Court Access to Justice Rooms in 2017. They are:

Honolulu District Court
Individual Attorneys: Sergio Alcubilla, Justin Brackett, Samantha Chan, Kristie Chang, Daniel Cheng, Stacey Djou, Tred Eyerly, William H. Gilardy, Jr., Arlette Harada, Nathaniel Higa, Miriah Holden, Daniel Kim, Sharon Lovejoy, Dan O’Meara, Bruce Paige, Cheryl Park, Alana Peacott-Ricardos, Beverly Sameshima, Rowena Somerville, Jefferson Willard, Sam Yee, Bryant Zane, Eileen C. Zorc, and Elton Johnson (paralegal who provided support services to the Access to Justice Room).

Law Firms/Offices and Non-profits: Chong Nishimoto Sia Nakamura & Goto, Hawaii Women Lawyers, McCorriston Miller Mukai Mackinnon, Carlsmith Ball, Cades Schutte, Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, Hawaii Filipino Lawyers Association, Bronster Fujichaku Robbins, Schlack Ito, Starn O’Toole Marcus & Fisher, Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, Ashford & Wriston, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert, Marr Jones Wang, and Yamamoto Caliboso;

Kapolei Family Court
John Bryant Jr., Leslie Ching Allen, Richard Diehl, Noah Gibson, Jessi Hall, Seth Harris, Jill Hasegawa, Steve Hioki, Ann Isobe, Mari Kishimoto, Erin Kobayashi, Lynnae Lee, Marianita Lopez, Dyan Mitsuyama, Juan Montalbano, Michelle Moorhead, Mei Nakamoto, Elizabeth Paek-Harris, Gemma-Rose Poland Soon, Ellen Politano, Madalyn Purcell, Jackie Thurston, Carol Tribbey, Cheryl Yamaki, and Sandra Young.

In addition to the acknowledgment of the volunteer attorneys, the award recipients from the Access to Justice Commission’s 2017 statewide high school essay contest were praised for their work.

Photograph of the winners of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission's 2017 essay and video contest, October 26, 2017.

Winners of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission’s 2017 essay and video contest were honored at the October 26 Pro Bono Celebration. Front row left: Emily and Elise Kuwaye (Kaimuki Christian School), Lona Girardin (Seabury Hall), Hawaii State Bar Association President Nadine Ando, Rep. Della Au Belatti. Back row left: Hawaii Access to Justice Commission Chair Justice Simeon Acoba (ret.), Mya Hunter (Trinity Christian School), Madison Pratt (Keaau High School), Kylie Alarcon for video (Aiea High School).

This is the fifth year in a row that the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission has sponsored the contest to encourage and recognize student volunteerism, and the very first time students were invited to submit videos as well as written essays.

The Commission received 191 essays and videos from public and private high school students in grades 10 through 12 on the theme: “Why we need volunteers, and how volunteering has helped me to answer this question.” The 2017 essay award recipients are (in alphabetical order): Kylie Alarcon, Aiea High School (video); Lona Girardin, Seabury Hall; Mya Hunter, Trinity Christian School; Elise Kuwaye, Kaimuki Christian School; Emily Kuwaye, Kaimuki Christian School; and Madison Pratt, Keaau High School.

Each of the students received a cash award of $500, donated by McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon, LLP; Schlack Ito, LLP; Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, LLP; Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert, Carlsmith Ball, LLP; and Bronster Fujichaku Robbins.

“Our judicial system exists to provide equal justice for all. Hawaii ranks third in the nation for our efforts to increase access to the courts, and we continue to pursue improvements in this area,” said Justice Simeon Acoba (ret.), who serves as the Chair of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission. “The annual Pro Bono Awards is a celebration of Hawaii’s ongoing efforts to realize justice for everyone in our communities. We cultivate the commitment to this ideal by encouraging thoughtful essays and videos by students about the virtue of volunteering, and by recognizing lawyers who voluntarily donate their legal services to those in need.”

The Pro Bono Celebration, held annually during National Pro Bono Week, was sponsored by the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission with the support of the Hawaii State Bar Association and the Hawaii State Bar Foundation.

The Hawaii Access to Justice Commission was created in May 2008. The Commission’s primary purpose is to substantially increase access to justice in civil legal matters for low- and moderate-income residents of Hawaii. Information about the Commission may be obtained at

The Hawaii State Bar Association is the unified bar association for all persons admitted to the practice of law in Hawaii, and serves to unite and inspire Hawaii lawyers to promote justice, serve the public, and improve the legal profession.

The Hawaii State Bar Foundation is a nonprofit organization established to promote justice through programs such as Access to Justice for persons in need of legal services, civics education, and other public service programs and projects, including programs and projects of the Hawaii State Bar Association.