2015 State of the Judiciary


Will the Joint Session of the 28th legislature please come to
order Before receiving the Chief Justice’s
message I would like to recognize some of our honored guests that are with us this
morning: Governor David Ige and Mrs. Dawn Amano Ige, Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui, Mr. Robert K. Lindsey Jr , Chair of
the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Mrs. Gailynn Williamson and Mr. Andrew Recktenwald other thing was just guest joining us this morning former
Governor George R. Ariyoshi former Governor John D. Waihee III, and
Mrs. Lynne Waihee former Governor Ben Cayetano and Mrs. Vicky Cayetano former Chief Justice of Hawaii Supreme Court Ronald T.Y Moon, Associate Justice Paula A. Nakayama, Associate Justice
Sabrina S. McKenna Associate Justice Richard W. Pollack, Associate Justice
Michael D. Wilson former Associate Justice Stephen
Levinson and Mrs. Kathy levinson former Associate Justice Simeon Acoba,
and Mrs. Carolyn Acoba former Chief Judge James Burns and Mrs. Emme Tomimbang US Magistrate Richard L. Puglisi US Bankruptcy Judge Lloyd King US Attorney Florence Nakakuni and
members of the law enforcement community including County Chiefs of police and prosecuting
attorney, Mr. Jeffrey Daniel Lau Dean of the Consular Corps Hawaii and distinguished members of the
Consular Corps, Ms Malia Paul representing United States Senator Brian
Schatz Mr. Allen Yamamoto representing United States Senator Mazie
Hirono, Mr. Walter Kaneakua representing United
States representative Tulsi Gabbard Mr. Rod Tanonaka representing the United
States Representative Mark Takai The chair hereby appoints the following
legislators to escort the Honorable Mark E. Recktenwald Chief Justice of Hawaii Supreme Court to the roster On behalf of the Senate Senator Gil Keith-Agaran Senator Kalani English and Senator
Sam Slom On behalf of the House Representative Karl Rhoads, Representative Scott Saiki and Representative Beth Fukumoto Chang The chair hereby requests the following
legislators to present lei to the Chief Justice On behalf of the Senate Senator Miley
Shimabukuro and on behalf of the House Representative Sylvia Luke. Members of the 28th Legislature ladies
and gentlemen please join me in extending our warmest Aloha and Welcome to the Chief Justice
of the Hawaii Supreme Court the Honorable Mark E. Recktenwald President Kim, Speaker Souki, Governor and Mrs. Ige, Lieutenant Governor Tsutsui, members of the House and Senate Governor and Mrs. Ariyoshi, Governor and Mrs. Waihee, Governor and Mrs. Cayetano, Chief Justice Moon, fellow justices, judges, and judiciary staff, Members at the Consular Corps, Members at the Royal Order of Kamehameha, distinguished guests and friends, good
morning and aloha. on behalf of the Hawaii State Judiciary I thank the legislature for giving me
this opportunity to report to you and to the people of Hawaii. We enjoy a
strong working relationship with the Senate and House, and we appreciate your support for the
administration of justice. I would like to send a special Aloha to
represent Mele Carroll, was unable to join us today, and we all wish her the best. I also want to extend our appreciation
to our many partners in the executive branch. Governor Ige
knows our operations well from his decades a service at the
legislature and we share his commitment to making government more efficient
we’re excited to work with him Lt. Governor Tsutsui, and their outstanding new team in the years ahead. The mission of the
judiciary is to deliver justice for all. We do that in many different ways, both
in the courtroom and in the community. We ensure that
people are treated fairly, whatever their background. We uphold the
rights and protections of the constitution, even when doing so may be unpopular. We provide a place where people can
peacefully resolve their disputes, as well as opportunities for them to
move forward from the circumstances that brought them before the courts. And
we are often called upon to help address deep-rooted social problems, from substance abuse to domestic
violence. There is nothing more fundamental to our
democratic system of government than our citizens’ trust in our courts. As Chief Justice, I see the power of that
trust every day, and I’ll share two examples
with you. Just over two years ago, thousands of
people gathered in the courtyard just outside this chamber to bid aloha to the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye. Several months later, Mrs. Irene
Inouye visited my office, and presented the
judiciary with a very precious gift: the Senator’s original 1953 law license, which is now
on display at Judiciary History Center. Like many of his fellow soldiers in the
442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the Military
Intelligence Service, the Senator returned from war with a
passionate commitment to building a more equal and just
society. Many of those soldiers chose a career in the law as a path to that end. Of course,
the great irony is that the very legal system that they chose to join as officers of the court had just failed them, by sanctioning the internment of
Japanese-Americans. But rather than despair or disengage, they chose to commit themselves to
making the legal system live up to its promise a fair treatment
and equal justice. Senator Inouye received his Hawaii law
license on July 24, 1953. There was another
person admitted to the Hawaii Bar that same day who used her law license
to fight unequal and fair treatment in our society: Representative PatsyTakemoto Mink. She
recently received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She
too had been subjected to discrimination, both because of her race and because her gender. And she too chose to put her
faith in the system rather than turn her back to it. The
passion for equality and justice that inspired Senator Inouye Representative Mink is shared by everyone
at the judiciary, and I’d like to thank them for their
dedication and service. This passion is also shared by the many
people throughout our community who help us achieve our mission every
day. In 2014 more than 1,300 people volunteered their time at judiciary–that’s
an extraordinary outpouring of support. Many others assist us by serving on our commissions, or through
organizations such as the American Judicature Society.
Quite simply, we cannot do what we do without them. Today, I will highlight four of our most
significant efforts to provide justice for all in our community. I will discuss
our initiatives to ensure that people’s voices are heard in our courtrooms, even if they cannot afford a lawyer, how
we are working to find more cost-effective ways to keep our community safe, how we are
protecting our children and families when they are in crisis, and our plans to
meet the challenges of the future. I will begin with access to
justice. Our judicial system exists to provide
equal justice for all, but that ideal is
compromised if people can’t meaningfully participate. When that happens, some of
the most serious legal problems that a person can face– whether they can stay in their homes or
face eviction, whether they can see their children after a divorce, or whether they can be protected from
domestic violence– are decided without their voices being
fully heard. That’s an outcome that we simply
cannot accept. In Hawaii, there are thousands of people who must represent themselves in civil cases in our courts each year because they cannot afford an
attorney. Here on Oahu, we had almost 4,000 divorce cases filed in 2014– in nearly 65 percent of them, neither
party had an attorney. Of the landlord-tenant claims
filed in 2014 throughout the state, at least one of the parties did not have
an attorney in 96 percent of the cases.A key milestone in our efforts
to address these challenges has been the establishment of the Access to Justice Commission. The
Commission has achieved amazing results with extremely limited resources. The
Commission’s web of support and stakeholders continues to grow and build momentum as more people have
come to understand the need, and how they can help meet it. One great
example the Commission’s work is the opening a self-help centers in our courthouses. Volunteer attorneys
provide information at the centers to individuals who are representing
themselves in civil legal cases. For a layperson, civil
litigation can be daunting, with requirements that are not always
intuitive. The information that people receive at the centers enables them to more effectively tell
their side of the story. We open the first such center on Kauai
2011, and now has six centers operating in
every circuit in the state. More than 7,600 people have
been assisted, at almost no cost to the public. We’re
also using technology to reach people might not be able to visit these
brick-and-mortar centers. The Judiciary partnered with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii to develop interactive software that asks the user plain-language questions about their case, and then utilizes the responses to prepare
the most commonly-used legal forms. The software is now
available at workstations in six courthouses, and on our website. We are also
extending our outreach into the community–in particular, to
the public libraries where so many of our citizens go when they need information. The software is now available in
50 libraries statewide, on almost 1,000 computers. We are very
excited about this new partnership, and we are already seeing a significant spike in usage of the software. In just a few months, more than 2,500
people have used it. With the help of the legislature, we have
also made great strides in addressing other challenges, from increasing support
for legal services providers whose attorneys and volunteers help
thousands of people each year, to meeting the needs a court
users who do not speak English as a first language. We now offer
interpretation services to all court users, at no cost, in every type of case. What we’re doing is important, and it’s
being noticed across the country. The National Center
for Access to Justice recently completed an independent study each state justice system across the
country. Hawaii was ranked among the top five for expanding access to justice. We ranked
number one for providing services to litigants who
represent themselves, and tied for first in providing support
for people with disabilities. These are results that we can all be
proud of. I extend my heartfelt appreciation to
everyone whose work towards the mission of providing justice for all in Hawaii. We have with us here today many
people in organizations have been instrumental in that effort, including members of the Access to
Justice Justice Commission, led by chair Judge Daniel Foley and his
predecessor Justice Simeon Acoba; the Hawaii State Bar Association in the
county bar association’s the William S. Richardson School Law; the
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and other legal services providers; and the Hawaii State Public Library. We also have many individual attorneys
who generously volunteer their time are self-help centers and elsewhere in our
community. There is much work left to be done, but
we’ve come a long way thanks to all of these individuals and
organizations. Can you please join me in acknowledging
them? The second issue I like to discuss is enhancing public safety by making our
criminal justice system work more effectively. This is another
area where Hawaii has been leading nationally, through programs such as HOPE probation, which
was founded by Judge Stephen Alm. HOPE is based on a simple premise: when defendants who are on probation
violate the rules that the court sets for them, they must face swift and certain
consequences. The results have been dramatic. After 10
years experience with HOPE, research has shown that individuals who
participated are 20 percent less likely to be
arrested for new crimes. This is a huge impact in terms of lives rebuilt for the
participants, suffering avoided by the potential victims of crime, and money say by the taxpayers. We are
looking for new ways to apply the principles developed in
HOPE. A pilot project is underway to apply the same HOPE strategies to
defendants who have been charged with crimes and released on conditions prior to their trials. By having
defendant’s confront their drug use or other challenges earlier in the process, we can increase
our chances of success and protect the community. As important
as it is to have the structure that a program like HOPE provides, we
cannot lose sight of the fact that each defendant is an individual. To help
them move in a new direction, we have to be able to reach out to them
as individuals. Nowhere is this more evident than in our
Veterans Treatment Court. The court is designed to
meet the challenges faced by those who have defended our freedoms, but have had difficulty readjusting to
civilian life and find themselves in the criminal
justice system. This court was started on Oahu two years
ago by Judge Edward Kubo, and has recently expanded
to the Big Island, thanks to the leadership of Judges Ronald
Ibarra and Greg Nakamura. A key element to the court is mentoring by fellow veterans, who can
help lead them through this one additional battle. With us today is
retired US Navy Petty Officer Dastin Hernandez and his wife Lauren. He has volunteered with the program since it started, and is currently mentoring two veterans. The team of volunteer mentors works with
the veterans on a daily basis to listen, provide guidance, and support them;
from driving them to their next appointment to getting them housing or the VA
benefits they’ve earned. Petty Officer Hernandez says he
volunteers because he was taught in the military to never leave anyone behind. Petty
Officer Hernandez, would you please stand, so that we can thank you for your
service to this country and for your continued service to your
fellow veterans. Programs such as Veterans Treatment Court and HOPE are important initiatives. But we also need to step back and
take a critical look at the system as a whole. We must ask one fundamental question: are we as safe as we can be, given the
limited resources at our disposal, or can we do better? Here in Hawaii, the executive, legislative, and judicial
branches came together to form the Justice Reinvestment
Initiative to consider this important question. Governor Abercrombie’s administration
strongly supported that effort, and the legislature passed a
comprehensive package of reforms in 2012. Those reforms put more resources into
drug treatment and other rehabilitation programs, gave
judges more discretion in sentencing, and required prisoners to pay increased
restitution to their victims. We are working with the
executive branch to implement these reforms, and will continue to look for other ways
to make our community as safe as possible. We also recently
partnered with the legislative and executive branches to take a hard look the results we have achieved in the
juvenile justice system. This is another area where hawaii has
been innovating, by developing alternatives to detention
for our young people who violate the law. Reform legislation was passed last
session that enables us to continue those efforts by investing more resources in
rehabilitation and prevention. Another example
innovation is the Girls Court program. Girls Court was started here on Oahu by
Judge Karen Radius, and will be expanding to Kauai next month,
thanks to the leadership of Judges Trudy Senda and Randal Valenciano. The purpose of Girls Court is to reach young women who are at a crossroads in their lives, to help them break the cycle of
destructive behavior. I attended a Girls Court graduation
ceremony and learn one young woman’s remarkable turnaround. She was bright and full potential but had run away from home repeatedly and got involved with drugs. After months of intensive rehabilitation, mentoring from strong female role models and family counseling, she got her GED a full-time job, and stopped violating
the law. Her mother wept that day in girls court. She said she thought her daughter
was going to die in the streets, and thanked the court for bringing her
back. Juvenile Justice is part of our family
court, which is the third area I’d like to focus on today. Family
court has a profound impact on our community. In the last year, our
family courts handle more than 10,000 divorce cases, more than 2,000 cases involving alleged
abused and neglected children, more than 7,500 cases involving juvenile
offenders, and almost 6,000 cases involving
domestic violence. Those are staggering numbers, but they
only tell part of the story. For example, we literally have children
who come to the court’s attention at birth, because their mothers were
abusing drugs or alcohol while they were pregnant. Our Zero-to-Three Court, as the name suggests, is designed to meet
the unique needs of infants and toddlers whose parents are
suspected of abuse or neglect. Research has shown that
time is of essence in these cases because the children are developing so
quickly. Our Zero-to-ThreeCcourt was established several years ago with funding from
grants, but those funds are coming to an end, and we will be respectfully asking the legislature to consider finding it on a permanent
basis. At the other end of the spectrum, we are
also focusing on it needs the kids who are “aging out” of foster care age 18 without ever having received a
permanent placement with a new family. We have established a
permanency court in the first circuit to provide special assistance to these children, and are also participating in the Imua Kakou program, which was developed in collaboration
with the Department of Human Services, with the support of the Legislature. The
program extended foster care services available to many former foster youth the on their 18th birthday. Another area
where family court to make a huge difference is when families go through
the trauma of divorce. Our family courts seek to
minimize the impact in many ways. Our Kids First program provides group
support and counseling to kids whose parents are going through divorce, and in 2014 alone, reached more than 6,000
people. In sum, we are continuing to find
meaningful ways to take care of Hawaii’s children and families when they are at their most vulnerable. We have many partners to help us in that
effort. We thank those agencies who we work with on issues such as preventing domestic violence and
child abuse, as well as the Legislature, which has provided additional funding for
those vital programs. Finally, I’d like to focus on the
challenges of the future and how we can evolve to meet them, while remaining true to the values that make Hawaii unique. In partnership with the Hawaii State Bar Association, we have been working to find ways to make litigation more efficient. Over the past three years, the HSBA has
sponsored bench-bar conferences that brought
hundreds of lawyers from across the state to meet with their chief judges and
court administrators. These conferences that led to some
significant innovations, such as making it easier for attorneys to
appear by telephone or videoconference in lieu of traveling to court. We’re also
encourage encouraging litigants to use mediation, so that they can
resolve their conflicts on their own terms, at less cost. In the past year, over 7,500 individuals utilized our
mediation services, and in one survey, more than 90 percent said they would recommend mediation to others. One great
benefit in mediation is speed. From the time the parties agree to
mediate, it was an average of only 10 days before they were sitting down to resolve
their dispute. We have new mediation programs underway, including a divorce
mediation program on Kauai a paternity mediation pilot
project on Oahu. We are also seeking to augment our appellate mediation program. In addition, we are implementing our
strategic plan, which provides us with the road map for the next five years. The plan’s objectives range from
improving our services to the user through use of technology, to increasing step training opportunities and improving our infrastructure. We are establishing the new
environmental court. This will be only the second statewide
environmental court in the United States. It is a complex
undertaking since it involves both civil and criminal case,s in both our circuit
and district courts. My colleague Justice Michael Wilson has
been working with the community and other government agencies to ensure
that this undertaking is truly collaborative, and we will have the court up and running
as scheduled on July 1st. Improving infrastructure is
a key component to building for the future. Currently in
West Hawaii, court proceedings are being held in three different locations, in buildings that were not designed as
courthouses, which in turn has led to severe security, logistical and operational problems. To address
these concerns, we have proposed building a centralized courthouse in Kona. We thank the legislature for committing
$35 million thus far to fund construction. This session, we will be respectfully
seeking the remaining $55 million needed to build the courthouse. We believe the time has
come to provide a residents of West Hawaii with the safe and secure courthouse that
can meet the needs of this growing community. Lastly, we’ve
been investing in our future generations through civics
education. We launched the Courts in the Community outreach program in 2012, which gives high school students the
opportunity to go beyond textbooks, and experience an actual Supreme Court
oral argument in person. Volunteer attorneys help to teach the
students about the judicial system and the case, and conduct a practice oral
argument with the students acting as justices and counsel. By the
time the Supreme Court arrives on campus, the students know the facts and the law,
and they are engaged listeners. After the argument, they
have the opportunity to participate in question and answer sessions, first with the attorneys, and then with
members of the court. These exchanges are exciting, both for
the court, and for the students. When we visited
Baldwin High School on Maui, my colleague Justices Sabrina McKenna
passionately spoke to the students about how Representative Mink, who was born and raised on Maui, had opened doors for her and countless other women to the passage
of Title IX– and the students broke into cheers. We
are many partners who assist us with this program: the attorneys from the Hawaii State Bar
Association and county bar association’s who visit the classrooms; the Hawaii
State Bar Foundation, which provides lunch in buses for the students; and law students at the William S. Richardson School of Law, who work with our Judiciary History
Center to develop the curriculum. In total, nearly 1,500 students from
28 schools have participated in this unique
opportunity to see the Hawaii Supreme Court in action, and we are looking forward to holding two
oral arguments each school year going forward. To date,
we have convened the court at Farrington and Mililani high schools on Oahu, at Baldwin on Maui, and at UH-Hilo and Kealakehe on the Big Island; and we are headed to Kaua‘i this year. We
have with us today from Waiākea High School, which hosted us in Hilo, Ms. Donna Tanabe and Student Body President Katelyn Shirai; and from Mililani High School, our most recent host, Principal Fred Murphy, Lt. Col. Timothy Schiller, Dr. Amy Perruso, and students from two of Dr. Perruso’s classes. If these outstanding students, teachers, and administrators would please stand, I’d like us all to thank
them for their commitment to real life civic education. We have received enthusiastic comments from the students who attended these arguments, many of whom have suggested that they would consider careers as attorneys as a result. Some have noted that the same questions that they raised during their practice oral arguments were asked by the justices during the
actual argument. Others have observed how rigorous and fair the process is, and one expressed surprise to me that the
justices asked tough questions to the government
attorney in a criminal case. To me, that last comment sums up the rule of law better than any
textbook could. It doesn’t matter who you are, or whom
you represent: when you come before the courts of this
state, you will get a fair shake. And that is the
foundation of everything we do at the judiciary. I’d like to thank the more than 1,800
justices, judges, and judiciary staff who put their hearts
and souls into making equal justice for all a
reality each and every day, as well as all of our volunteers and partners in the community and the other branches of government who
assist us in that undertaking. And once again, I extend my deep
appreciation to the Senate and House for giving me this opportunity today.
Aloha, and Mahalo.

One comment

  1. i, an innocent man is being injustly charged with assault 3 in Hilo< hawaii; i am disable and this is causing great illnesess:
    i am author of a book: Pots Did Stop under norman clemens
    onofrio norman clementi
    c15018535 stop this injustice now!!!1email: [email protected]
    any one care of injustice????

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