The Hawaii Access to Justice Commission has a new chairperson: Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Simeon R. Acoba, Jr. Appointed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Acoba–who served as the commission’s first chairperson from 2008 to 2010–replaces Intermediate Court of Appeals Associate Judge Daniel R. Foley.
“It is my honor and privilege to serve alongside a group of individuals committed to making access to justice a reality for the people of Hawaii,” said Justice Acoba in a Dec. 31, 2015 news release. “I’d like to thank Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald for his continued leadership and support, the volunteer attorneys, community partners and legal service providers who make our mission possible.”
Put simply, the commission exists to make sure that access to proper legal service and advice is available to everyone in Hawaii. They do this through Self-Help Centers located statewide, as well as a variety of other efforts. The need for such legal access is great, according to this list of facts found on the commission’s website:
- Only 1 in 5 low and moderate-income Hawai‘i residents have their legal needs met.
- Legal service providers are able to help only 1 in 3 of those who contact them for assistance.
- The areas with the greatest unmet civil legal needs are housing (24%), family (23%), domestic violence (8%), and consumer (7%).
- Significant barriers to obtaining legal assistance, in addition to inability to afford an attorney, include language and cultural barriers, lack of knowledge of one’s legal rights, lack of knowledge of available legal services, and difficulty in accessing legal services programs.
- There is one legal service attorney for every 2,291 persons living below 125% of the federal poverty guideline.
- There is one legal service attorney for every 4,402 persons living below 200% of the federal poverty guideline.
- There is one private attorney for every 361 persons in the general population.
The commission’s Self-Help Center for Maui is located on the first floor of the Hoapili Hale (2145 Main St., Wailuku). But it’s only open on Thursdays, from 9am to noon.
Photo of Hawaii Supreme Court: Wikimedia Commons