Hawaii State Judiciary’s Self-Help Centers Provide Legal Information to More Than 10,000 People

More than 10,000 people have now been assisted at courthouse self-help centers in Hawaii. These centers were established through collaboration among the Hawaii State Judiciary, the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, and the Hawaii State Bar Association.

The first Self-Help Center was opened four years ago on Kauai, and these centers are now available statewide to self-represented litigants who wish to consult with volunteer attorneys regarding civil legal matters at no cost to the litigant, and virtually no cost to the state.

“This milestone is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the hundreds of volunteer attorneys who have donated their time and professionalism to helping those who otherwise might not be able to afford a lawyer,” said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. “I’d also like to extend a special thanks to the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, the Hawaii State Bar Association, all county bar associations, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and its AmeriCorps program, and our partners in the community who have helped us make significant strides in providing greater access to justice.”

“Hawaii has been recognized as a leader across the country for our access to justice initiatives with the establishment of statewide self-help centers as a living example of these efforts,” said Associate Judge and Hawaii Access to Justice Commission Chair Daniel Foley. “It is because of the concerted efforts of all those who have partnered with the Commission, as well as the vision, leadership, and commitment of Chief Justice Recktenwald.” 

There are currently six locations, including at circuit courthouses in Lihue, Wailuku, Kona and Hilo, and on Oahu, where they are called Access to Justice Rooms, at Family Court in Kapolei and at District Court in Honolulu.

“Legal Aid receives nearly 20,000 calls a year and we are grateful to the Hawaii State Judiciary for its commitment to the court self-help centers and expanding the resources available for those navigating the legal system on their own,” added Legal Aid Society of Hawaii Executive Director, M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina. “I especially want to recognize our AmeriCorps members in Project Kaulike and other partners for being a part of this important initiative to ensure the values of justice, fairness, and service are upheld in our community. Each month, the Self-Help Centers and Access to Justice Rooms statewide serve hundreds of people.

The response from those who have been served at the Self-Help Centers has been overwhelmingly positive. For example, some have commented:

“Those folks out there—myself included—who cannot afford an attorney heavily rely on ACCESS TO JUSTICE ROOM. Please continue offering this service. It truly is the proper way to access JUSTICE when a paid attorney is not reachable. Eternally thankful to all of those good people who offer their work and knowledge for free.”

“Wonderful program, don’t feel overwhelmed anymore!”

“This is a very positive benefit for our community. I thank the lawyers and the court for providing such an important program!”

Hawaii State Bar Association President Gregory Markham went on to say, “10,000 people served represents the commitment and dedication of the many attorneys who volunteer their time and professionalism to assist self-represented litigants. Along with the positive feedback we have received from the self-represented litigants, many of our attorneys have commented on what a rewarding experience it has been to be able to give back to the community.”

In addition to volunteer legal assistance at the centers, the Hawaii State Judiciary has also partnered with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Hawaii State Public Library System to make self-help interactive court forms software available at the Self-Help Centers and Access to Justice Rooms and public libraries across the state as well as online. The self-help interactive software guides self-represented persons through the process of creating court forms that may be completed and printed for filing at courthouses statewide. The creation and continuing development of self-help interactive court forms software has been funded by grants from the Legal Services Corporation and the State Justice Institute.

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