The first annual Access to Justice Conference was held Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii, Manoa campus.   The conference brought together over 210 attendees.   Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Simeon Acoba, Chair of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission (“Commission”), opened the conference with a short overview of the Commission and its committees. 

Nalani Fujimori Kaina, Executive Director, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (“Legal Aid”) briefly described “The 2007 Assessment of Civil Legal Needs and Barriers of Low-and Moderate-Income People in Hawaii” and mentioned the key findings of that report.  With her handout as a reference, she showed that the current economic crisis is resulting in increased demand for services.

Russ Awakuni, an attorney with Legal Aid, and his client presented a situation involving an eviction with underlying mortgage fraud issues.  They illustrated the reality of the need for legal services for low-income clients and others in similar circumstances.

The first panel of the morning confronted the question:  do desperate times require a re-evaluation of how legal services are provided to low income clients?  With Chief Justice Richard Guy as moderator, Ms. Kaina; Moya Gray, Executive Director of Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii; Robin Kobayashi, Executive Director, Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center; and State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa acknowledged that funding is problematic, but they did not reach a conclusion that a different paradigm would work.  

 The second panel with Robert LeClair as moderator, Family Court Judge Michael Broderick, and R. Elton Johnson, III, paralegal, discussed non-traditional approaches to meeting civil legal needs such as a civil right to counsel. 

 The third panel, “Navigating the legal services labyrinth,” was creatively illustrated by Tracey Wiltgen, Executive Director, The Mediation Center of the Pacific, Inc., Nanci Kreidman, CEO, Domestic Violence Action Center, law professor James H. Pietsch, and Ms. Kobayashi.  They set the stage for audience participation with questions and prizes at the beginning of their presentation.

 Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Moon introduced the featured speaker, Chief Justice John T. Broderick of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  

 The “Pro Bono Legal Services and Civil Right to Counsel” breakout group included the following Commission committees:

  • Committee on Increasing Pro Bono Legal Services
  • Committee on Right to Counsel in Certain Civil Proceedings
  • Law School Liaison Committee

 The “Barriers, Self-Representation, and Unbundled Legal Services” group met in Classroom 3.  Wayne Parsons acted as the facilitator with Christopher St. Sure as recorder.  The three ATJC committees assigned to this breakout group were:

  •   Committee on Self-Representation and Unbundling
  •   Committee on Alleviating Poverty in Hawaii
  •    Committee on Overcoming Barriers to Access to Justice