“Without the tremendous work and dedication of the staff, boards, and volunteers of the nonprofit legal services providers, thousands in our community would be denied access to justice.”
— Hon. Daniel R. Foley, Chair, Hawaii Access to Justice Commission
The Hawaii Access to Justice Commission’s Pro Bono Celebration on Thursday, October 29, 2015 attracted more than 150 attendees. Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Simeon Acoba (ret.), former Chair of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission (“Commission”) opened the ceremony by acknowledging that Hawaii was joining other jurisdictions in a nationwide celebration of pro bono efforts.
The event was supported by the Hawaii Justice Foundation, Hawaii State Bar Association (“HSBA”), and the Hawaii State Bar Foundation.
Governor David Ige, Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, and HSBA bar president Gregory Markham expressed appreciation to the volunteer attorneys and the high school students for recognizing volunteerism.
The 2015 Pro Bono Honorees
- The Mediation Center of the Pacific (“Mediation Center”) recognized Constance Hassell for her dedication since 1989 as a mediator in a broad variety of case types in paternity, divorce, business, workplace, temporary restraining orders, and others. She mediated a total of 138 cases involving 175 mediation sessions, totaling 530 hours. She also regularly assists in The Mediation Center’s mediation trainings, mediator mentoring, and apprentice mediator evaluations.
- The Business Law Corps (“BLC”) recognized Ryan K. Hew for his contributions to the organization since its inception. He has undertaken pro bono client representation, is a regular participant in BLC’s weekly free attorney sessions at the Manoa Innovation Center and the Patsy T. Mink Center for Business and Leadership and has given free seminars for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
- Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation recognized James K. Kawahito for his pro bono work on the Davis v. Sakai case, where he served as class counsel in a prisoner rights lawsuit that deals with accommodating Native Hawaiian religion in prison. He was instrumental in obtaining a court order granting class action status to claims made by eight Native Hawaiian prisoners.
- Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii recognized Judge Dyan M. Medeiros for her pro bono work for over 20 years. She was influential in launching the Uncontested Divorce Workshop, which helped many self-represented parties finalize their divorce without the emotional and financial stress often a result of prolonged litigation.
- Domestic Violence Action Center (“DVAC”) recognized Dyan Mitsuyama and Jill Hasegawa. Mitsuyama assists DVAC with its divorce and paternity caseload, which allows the agency to expand its outreach to survivors. She provides representation to indigent survivors as well as guidance to new staff attorneys at the agency. Hasegawa provided staff attorneys with training on divorce and custody matters. She has also been available to assist staff attorneys when they have questions regarding divorce/paternity cases.
- Legal Aid Society of Hawaii recognized the Young Lawyers Division (“YLD”) volunteers who worked on the updates to the Disaster Relief Assistance Manual: Marissa Machida, Heather Moore, Seth Corpuz-Lahne, Heather Uekawa, Courtney M. Crawford, Juliette B. McCullough, and Normand R. Lezy. With new legal issues arising, the Manual needed major updates to better train volunteer attorneys.
- Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice recognized John Rhee who served as lead counsel on two Hawaii Appleseed cases over the past three years. In one case, Rhee helped to obtain $300,000 in reimbursements for 250 low-income households who were overcharged rent for nearly a decade. In the other case, his work led to over $4.5 million in repairs and security upgrades at the Mayor Wright public housing project where residents did not have hot water, suffered rat and roach infestations and criminal activity by non-residents.
- American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (“ACLU”) recognized Matthew Winter for his extensive pro bono work with the organization. For example, he defended two individuals who were cited by the police for protesting while topless in Waikiki. After having the criminal charges dismissed since there is no law against being topless, he helped to negotiate policy changes for future protests. He worked on a case, lasting nearly two years, involving the First Amendment right to distribute religious leaflets on a public sidewalk.
The Access to Justice Rooms Volunteers
Judge Barbara Richardson, Judge R. Mark Browning, and Representative Karl Rhoads honored the volunteers who staffed the Access to Justice Rooms at the Honolulu District Court and at the Kapolei Family Court.
The attorneys and law firms/offices that volunteered for 2015 are:
January: Ayabe Chong Nishimoto Sia Nakamura
and March: Justin Adam Brackett, Patricia L. Cookson, Jessica R. Domingo, Tred R. Eyerly, Elwen A. Freitas, Arlette S. Harada, David J. Hoftiezer, Kurt I. Kagawa, Bernice L.C. Krause, Naomi M. Kusachi, Heather E. Moore, Cheryl A. Nakamura, Terri A. O’Connell, Alana Peacott-Ricardos, Cherrylina C. Piedad, Scott Prange, Radji O. Tolentino, Jefferson S. Willard and the Hawaii Filipino Lawyers Association
April: Carlsmith Ball
May: Starn O’Toole Marcus & Fisher / Schlack Ito
June Ashford & Wriston
July: Cades Schutte
August: Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel
September: Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing
October: Office of the Public Defender/ Bronster Fujichaku Robbins
November: Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert
December: Yamamoto Caliboso /Marr Jones & Wang
The attorneys who volunteered at the Kapolei Access to Justice Room and the Motions to Set project in April 2015 were: Kevin S. Adaniya, John C. Bryant, Jr., Richard J. Diehl, Jessi L.K. Hall, Jill M. Hasegawa, Stephen T. Hioki, Mari L. Kishimoto Doi, Erin M.C.L. Kobayashi, Lynnae L.L. Lee, Dyan Mitsuyama, John A. Montalbano, Michelle K. Moorhead, Mei Nakamoto, and Gemma-Rose Poland Soon.
Other attorneys who volunteered at the Kapolei Access to Justice Room were: P. Gregory Frey, Noah Gibson, Seth Harris, John D. Hughes, Ann S. Isobe, Marianita Lopez, Louis J. Markee, Jr., Ellen B. Politano, Evans M. Smith, Dean A. Soma, Tom S. Tanimoto, Jacqueline E. Thurston, Carol A. Tribbey, and Sandra G.Y. Young.
Other lawyers who helped with the Motions to Set project were: Jennifer L. Chan, Thomas E. Crowley, III, William C. Darrah, Thomas D. Farrell, Geoffrey Hamilton, Steven L. Hartley, Desiree L. Hikida, Amanda O. Jenssen, Charles T. Kleintop, Roxanne Kwong, Edward R. Lebb, Timothy Luria, Elsa F.M. McGehee, Naoko C. Miyamoto, Cathy Y. Mizumoto, Courtney N. Naso, Elizabeth Paek-Harris, Anthony A. Perrault, Alethea K. Rebman, Stephanie A. Rezents, Justin L. Sturdivant, Jo-Ann K. Takara, Sheila Vierra, and Craig G.H. Yim.
The Essay Award Recipients
The theme for this year’s essay contest, open to high school students in grades 10 through 12, “How to Inspire Fellow Students to Volunteer” attracted more than 240 essays. Regan Iwao, a member of the Commission’s Pro Bono Initiatives Task Force, thanked the preliminary judges: Judge Catherine Remigio, Judge Michael Tanigawa, Judge Hilary Gangnes, Judge Shirley Kawamura, Judge William Domingo, Judge Margaret Masunaga, Judge Dyan Medeiros, Judge Diana Van De Car, Judge Rhonda Loo, Derek Kobayashi, Christine Daleiden, Jessi Hall, Darien Ching Nagata, Carol Kitaoka, David Brittin, Scott Shishido, Lynda Arakawa, Shannon Wack, Reginald Yee, Joanna Sokolow, Jenny Silbiger, Tracy Jones, Roya Dehim.
The final judges were: Chief Justice Recktenwald; Judge Ronald Ibarra, Commissioner; and 2015 HSBA President Gregory Markham.
The 2015 essay award recipients were: Krizhna Bayudan, Lahainaluna High School, Grade 10; Shaun Gonzalez, Kealakeke High School, Grade 10; Jayson Hawthorne, Kapaa High School, Grade 11; Victoria Huynh, Kalani High School, Grade 12; Joshua Lawrence, Kalaheo High School, Grade 12; and Corina Quach, Kalani High School, Grade 12. (The essays are noted below.)
The sponsors for the $500 cash awards for each of the students were: Bank of Hawaii (Representative of the bank: Kevin Sakamoto); O’Connor Playdon & Guben (Representative of the law firm: Jerrold Guben); Chang Iwamasa & Chiu (Representative of the law firm: Jennifer Chiu); Clay Chapman Iwamura Pulice & Nervell (Representative of the law firm: Reginald Yee); Pacific Law Group (Representative of the law firm: Steven Chow); and Sullivan Meheula Lee (Representative of law firm: Nadine Ando).
Judge Foley, Chair of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, provided closing comments and thanked everyone for the past seven years of working together. Justice Acoba surprised Judge Foley with a plaque of appreciation for being a “super pro bono lawyer” and changing the world with Baehr v. Lewin, the case involving the freedom for same-sex couples to marry.
The Pro Bono Celebration was significant in that it highlights the dedication of attorneys in the community who do not wait on the sidelines to be invited to help; they accept the challenges of engaging in pro bono work without the need for accolades. They do it because there is a need. They do it because it is just.
Pro Bono Honorees
Volunteers at the Access to Justice Rooms
Student Essay Award Recipients
The student essays selected are linked below: