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Hawaii Named Recipient for Justice For All (JFA) Grant

Posted on Nov 10, 2016 in Press Releases

HONOLULU, HI- The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the Public Welfare Foundation has announced that the Hawaii State Judiciary (Judiciary), the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, and the Hawaii Justice Foundation (HJF) have been awarded a grant of nearly $100,000 to support efforts to enhance access to justice for all of Hawaii’s citizens.  HJF has also committed to supplement the $99,520 grant by contributing an additional $10,000. 

Nearly two dozen local access to justice leaders were personally involved in the grant application process, including judges, legislators, executive directors of civil legal service providers, the State Law Librarian, nine commissioners of the Access to Justice Commission, and directors of HJF.

“Hawaii has undertaken a number of initiatives to increase access to justice, but our resources have been limited,” said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.  “We are excited to receive this grant which will enable us to expand those efforts.  I’d like to acknowledge the leadership and commitment of Justice Simeon R. Acoba (ret.), the Access to Justice Commission Chair, and Robert J. LeClair, Hawaii Justice Foundation Executive Director.  I’d also like to thank Governor David Ige and Representative Della Au Belatti for their continued partnership in helping us secure this funding.  With the commitment and collaboration of our three branches of government, Hawaii will establish sensible and sustainable ways to continue to increase access to justice for all of Hawaii’s citizens.”

The Justice For All (JFA) project is supported by the Public Welfare Foundation and housed at the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).  The project will support efforts by the states to include all relevant stakeholders in the civil justice community in a partnership to better understand, adopt, and move toward implementation of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) resolution on Meaningful Access to Justice for All.

“Given the large number of people who are struggling economically, the increase of self-represented people in our state courts, and severe funding deficiencies, the Public Welfare Foundation thought it was very important to put resources behind the clarion call of the chief justices and the state court administrators,” said Mary McClymont, president of the Foundation.  “We wanted to help catalyze new ways of thinking and working among civil justice actors in each state.  The goal is to build a coordinated and integrated continuum of services with the user in mind – people with essential civil legal needs, especially those who cannot afford lawyers.  The grants will help states bring together all civil justice stakeholders to determine the most effective ways to deliver those services.”

“We are grateful that Hawaii is being recognized for the work that is being done to increase access to justice and to provide services for those in need,” said Governor David Ige.  “I am also proud of the Hawaii State Judiciary and all its stakeholders for its commitment to putting Hawaii at the forefront of Access to Justice initiatives.”

The Justice for All (JFA) grant will be used over the course of twelve months for an inventory of resources, assessment of needs, and strategic action planning.    A Justice for All Committee will be formed to help facilitate support from current and potential new stakeholders.  Community meetings will be held across the state, and a statewide meeting will be convened as well.

“This was truly a team effort.  We are thankful to have such a supportive Judiciary, committed contributors to the application, and well established and experienced civil legal service providers,” said Justice Simeon R. Acoba (ret.), Chair of the Access to Justice Commission.  “This funding will help us continue to build upon the resources in place, to meet the full continuum of needs of underserved persons.”

“The effectiveness of a civil justice system depends upon strong civil legal service providers that work closely with other community resources,” said Robert J. LeClair, HJF Executive Director.  “I’m proud to be part of an organization that supports these efforts.  These funds are just what we need to take us one step closer to 100% access to justice.”

Hawaii was recently ranked among the top three states in the country for practices aimed at making access to justice a reality for all people.  The Justice Index 2016 Findings measured the accessibility of each state’s justice system in four categories: attorney access for low-income litigants; support for self-represented litigants; support for litigants with limited language proficiency; and support for people with disabilities.

Hawaii was number one in the country for providing support for people with limited English proficiency (LEP). The State Judiciary’s Office on Equality and Access to the Courts (OEAC) has improved and increased the services available to Hawaii’s growing LEP population. The Judiciary annually provides interpreting services for LEP clients in as many as 45 different languages.

Hawaii ranked in the top five for providing support to self-represented litigants. The Judiciary, together with the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (LASH), and various community partners opened Self-Help Centers in every circuit in the state, where parties who cannot afford an attorney for their civil legal cases can get free information from volunteer attorneys.  Since the first Self-Help Center opened in 2011, volunteer attorneys and AmeriCorps Advocates have assisted more than 13,700 people, at almost no cost to court users.

The Judiciary also partnered with LASH and HSBA to make self-help interactive court forms available online. Twenty-three of the most frequently used civil legal forms are now 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 correctly. For those who do not own a personal computer or have Internet access, the Hawaii State Public Library System provides access to these “A2J” (Access to Justice) self-help forms at locations statewide.

Most recently, Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii (Volunteer Legal) launched a new free legal answers online tool, called the Hawaii Online Pro-Bono (HOP).  At Hawaii.freelegalanswers.org, income- qualifying residents can request brief advice and counsel from a volunteer Hawaii attorney.  Information is also available on the Judiciary website, under the tab for “Access to Justice.”

“The Hawaii State Judiciary together with the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission and Hawaii Justice Foundation have made giant strides over the past decade in providing services to those who may not be able to afford an attorney,” said Representative Della Au Belatti, who also serves on the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission.  “The legal system can be expensive and difficult to navigate.  These initiatives make it easier for all, and gives everyone a fair chance at being heard.”

“We have a lot to be proud of and it would not be possible without the partnership of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, Hawaii Justice Foundation, the Hawaii State Bar Association and the volunteer attorneys, the executive and legislative branches, the William S. Richardson School of Law, our civil legal service providers, and all who have joined the effort to provide access for all,” said Rodney Maile, Administrative Director of the Courts.  “I’d also like to acknowledge the efforts of Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, who is a nationally-recognized leader in access to justice initiatives, facilitating collaboration, committing the resources to make initiatives sustainable, and raising awareness and support from the community at large.” 

The JFA grant will be distributed in December 2016.  At the end of the twelve month period, Hawaii hopes to apply for another grant to begin implementing the Strategic Action Plan.  HJF has also committed additional funds to supplement the implementation phase.    For more information about the JFA Project, please visit: http://www.ncsc.org/jfap.  For more information about the Access to Justice initiatives in Hawaii, please visit the Access to Justice tab on the Hawaii State Judiciary’s website.  

For more information, contact the Communications and Community Relations Office at 808-539-4909 or via email at pao@courts.hawaii.gov.

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