Twenty attorneys and 10 Court Navigators were recognized for their volunteer service to the people of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai in 2018. They were honored on May 10 at the Maui County Bar Association’s Court Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, which was attended by Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald and Second Circuit Chief Judge Joseph E. Cadoza.
The attorneys provided free legal information to approximately 750 individuals who sought assistance at Maui’s courthouse Self-Help Center. The center opened in October 2012. Since then, volunteer attorneys have provided more than 4,000 consultations to individuals who are representing themselves in their civil legal matters for landlord-tenant cases, collections, divorces, custody, and temporary restraining orders.
In 2018, the Second Judicial Circuit further expanded its efforts to assist people who appear in Maui District Court by establishing Hawaii’s first Volunteer Court Navigator Program. There are currently 12 participants. Navigators serve at Hoapili Hale on days when District Court civil cases are heard. They give directions to the courtrooms, assist visitors who need interpreters or accommodations for sight or hearing impairments, and provide information on court procedures. They also advise court users of resources such as the Self-Help Center and the availability of free mediation services.
Since last June, more than 500 people have received assistance from the navigators, all of whom have received ratings of ‘excellent’ from those who completed an evaluation form. Two other states are now considering following the Maui model to establish similar programs.
“I am grateful to both our attorney and non-attorney volunteers who so generously contribute their time and expertise to serve our community at the Maui courthouse,” said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. “They play a key role in helping us ensure that everyone’s voice is heard in our civil courtrooms.”
The following attorneys were honored: Benjamin Acob, Lauren Akitake, Magdalena Bajon, Caroline Peters Belsom, Bevanne Bowers, David Cain, Elizabeth Cuccia, Justine Hura, Kevin Jenkins, Thomas Kolbe, Stanley Majka, Megan Moniz, Gary Murai, Yukari Murakami, Jennifer Oana, Benjamin Pittenger, David Raatz, Gary Robert, Samuel Shnider, Napoleon Taylor, and Loren Tilley.
The following Volunteer Court Navigator Program participants were recognized: Leilani Bronson-Crelly, Gloria Buckingham, Sandy Filipelli, Justine Hura, Pam Lavarre, Cheryl Lawrence, Linda Powley, Tori Renschen, Lani Scott, and Diane Sueno.
“Our system of justice works best when serving a well-informed population,” said Chief Judge Joseph Cadoza. “The Volunteer Court Navigator Program helps bridge the gap for those who are unfamiliar with the courts, and creates greater opportunities for everyone to avail themselves of the rights and liberties provided by law. We sincerely appreciate the dedicated service of the volunteer Court Navigators.
“The Second Circuit welcomes both attorneys and others who wish to join the Self-Help Center or the Court Navigator Program. The only qualification needed is a desire to be of service to the community,” added Chief Judge Cardoza.
“Venturing into a legal matter is often daunting for a lay person, but even 15 minutes of guidance can go a long way,” explained Maui County Bar Association Vice President Damir Kouliev, “For many, the Self-Help Center can be the only such resource, and we look forward to optimizing our hours and capabilities here in Wailuku and remotely for Hana, Molokai and Lanai.
“As a private practice attorney, I know that time is the most precious resource,” said Kouliev. “But I make time for the Self-Help Center for the impact even a few minutes can make, for the joy of seeing a ‘customer’ walk away with a smile after arriving nervous and overwhelmed. Fortunately, there’s a convenient online system for attorneys to sign up for shifts or finish training.”
The Self-Help Center is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays on the first floor of Hoapili Hale. Volunteer attorneys provide limited legal information to self-represented residents seeking help with certain District and Family Court civil matters. Visitors may also have court documents reviewed for interpretation, completeness, and correctness. Additionally, volunteers try to answer as many procedural questions as possible.
Residents of Molokai, Lanai, and Hana can get help by calling the Center at (808) 495-5527 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays.
For more information on volunteering with the Court Navigators Program, please contact the Office of the Second Circuit Chief Court Administrator at (808) 244-2929.