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Hawaii ranks well in access to justice

Updated: 
November 15, 2014 - 12:05am

Hawaii ranks third in the nation, behind Washington, D.C., and Connecticut on key components of providing access to the justice system, according to a report released Thursday.

The report, by the National Center for Access to Justice, measured how accessible the justice system is in four categories: attorney access for low-income litigants; support for self-represented litigants; support for litigants with limited language proficiency and support for people with disabilities.

Hawaii ranked No. 1 for providing support for self-represented litigants. The Judiciary has self-help centers in every circuit in the state, in Hilo, Wailuku, Lihue, Kona and Oahu’s family court and district court. Since the first center opened in 2011, volunteer attorneys have assisted more than 6,200 people, at almost no cost to the public.

The state also tied for first place in providing support for people with disabilities. This is in part because the Judiciary pays for accommodations such as sign-language interpreters and real-time transcription services for the hearing disabled.

The state Supreme Court created the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission in 2008 to address roadblocks to accessing justice. In addition, the courts have partnered with Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Hawaii State Bar Association to make more information available online. And, most recently, the Hawaii State Public Library System provided access to the interactive forms on its 800 computers and 250 netbooks.

“Our hard work is paying off,” Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said in a statement. “The findings reflect dedication and commitment toward realizing justice for all in Hawaii, and the effectiveness of the partnerships that the Commission has forged.”

Of the four categories, Hawaii scored lowest for civil legal aide, the number of attorneys employed by organizations providing direct representation and assistance in civil legal matters to low-income residents.

The full report can be found at justiceindex.org/findings.

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