Judiciary, Libraries, and Legal Aid Partnership Improves Public Access to CourtsPosted on Jun 1, 2015 in Press Releases
Supreme Court State Law Librarian Jenny R.F.F. Silbiger (left) and Elise von Dohlen, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii’s Director of Grants Management (right), test the new Hawaii Self-Help Interactive Forms on Legal Aid’s LawHelp.org website.
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s Self-Help Interactive Forms Expansion Project came to a successful completion today as 10 new court forms were made available online, and 10 “Know Your Rights” seminars were completed across the state. Project partners from the Hawaii State Judiciary, the Hawaii State Public Library System, and Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (Legal Aid), joined together to announce the latest developments in the ongoing effort to improve access to the courts for people of all income levels, especially Hawaii’s self-represented litigants.
Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald explained, “One of the greatest challenges to equal justice today is the lack of effective access to our civil justice system. People who have low or even moderate incomes cannot afford to hire an attorney to represent them in their civil legal cases. As a result, every year in Hawaii, thousands of people must represent themselves in our civil courts and try to navigate a system that is foreign to the average layperson. Many of them simply give up. For this reason we have continued to pursue projects and programs that make Hawaii’s courts more accessible.”
“Through the Self-Help Interactive Forms Expansion Project we have increased the resources that enable people to do things for themselves,” said State Librarian Stacey Aldrich. “Twenty-three (23) of the most frequently used civil legal forms are now available online, along with a state-of-the-art software that takes users through a step-by-step question and answer process to complete the forms easily and correctly. For those who do not own a personal computer or have Internet access, the Hawaii State Public Library System provides access to the “A2J” (Access to Justice) self-help forms on 800 library computers and 250 netbooks statewide,” Aldrich said.
The Judiciary’s Self-Help Interactive Forms Expansion project was made possible by a grant from the State Justice Institute, and builds on funding that Legal Aid received from the Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant.
As part of the project, Legal Aid provided training sessions on the new software to library staff, and Legal Aid attorneys hosted 10 free “Know Your Rights” briefings across the islands. Each briefing covered a different topic (e.g. landlord-tenant, estate planning, long-term care, etc.) and gave community members information to help them recognize when they may have a legal issue, and which self-help resources are available to assist them.
M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina, Executive Director of Legal Aid added, “We want to thank all the librarians across the state who helped make this partnership a success. From hosting and helping organize the “Know Your Rights” presentations at their local libraries to directing library patrons to the legal resources and information available online, this project would not have been possible without their commitment to increasing access to justice in our community. We also want to thank our partners at the Judiciary who were instrumental in securing the grant from the State Justice Institute to allow us to further develop these forms. These key partnerships have allowed us to help more people gain greater access to our legal system.”
With the success of this partnership, Legal Aid will continue to work with local libraries in conducting “Know Your Rights” presentations and will work with the Judiciary in creating more online court forms. By leveraging the use of technology, more people can receive some form of help with their legal problem who otherwise may not have a choice but to navigate the legal system on their own.
“As part of our Access to Justice initiative, making the courts easier for the public to navigate is a top priority for the Hawaii State Judiciary,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald. “The Self-Help Interactive Forms Expansion Project is a part of that effort. We extend our special thanks to Access to Justice Chairman Daniel R. Foley and Retired Associate Justice Simeon R. Acoba for their continued leadership and support in making the legal system more accessible to the public.”