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Kaua‘i Bar Association celebrates 10th anniversary of Self-Help Center

PUHI — “Don’t worry,” said retired Judge Trudy Senda Wednesday during the Kaua‘i Bar Association year-end event at the Mahiko Lanai at Kilohana. “We’ll do whatever hell needs to be done to get this going.”

Senda, one of the originators of the Self-Help Center at the Fifth Circut courthouse in Lihu‘e, said she remembers those exact words she told Hawai‘i Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald after they learned of the concept during an Access to Justice meeting 10 years ago.

The Kaua‘i Bar Association celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Self-Help Center during an informal gathering at the Mahiko Lanai at Kilohana in Puhi, with the greater part of the audience including volunteer judges, lawyers and attorneys who contributed to get the program going and continuing through its history.

“This was a nice idea,” Senda said. “We had a new courthouse with lots of room. But we had no money.”

Recktenwald said Kaua‘i created a model when the Self-Help Center was launched. Today, there are Self Help Centers on Maui, Hawai‘i Island, and two on O‘ahu that, while not carbon copies of the Kaua‘i SHC, are models inspired by the Kaua‘i center.

“You created a model for Self-Help Centers that over the 10-year course has served more than 30,000 people, all at no cost to government,” Recktenwald said.

“You opened the doors to the nation in showing what we can do with no money. The Kaua‘i Bar Association, Judge Trudy Senda, Judge Randal Valenciano, Emiko Meyers of the Legal Aid Society and the many volunteer legal-service providers, we are grateful. We also had the strong support of the Hawai‘i State Bar Association and the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i.”

Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Randal Valenciano, Judge Michael Soong and Family Court Judge Stephanie Char joined Recktenwald in honoring 34 attorneys for providing more than 800 free consultations to people who sought legal assistance at the Self-Help Center between 2019 and 2021.

“I am deeply grateful to all the hard-working attorneys who have volunteered their time and expertise over the past decade to support the Kaua‘i Self-Help Center in its mission to provide assistance to those who need it the most,” Recktenwald said in a release from the state Judiciary.

The Kaua‘i Self-Help Center is the first self-help center established in Hawai‘i. Since its opening in 2011, volunteer attorneys have provided the Kaua‘i community more than 4,150 free legal consultations on a variety of civil legal matters in district and family courts, including landlord-tenant cases, collection cases, temporary restraining orders and divorce.

“More than 250 attorneys have volunteered each year, and they helped more than 31,000 people at almost no cost to the public (across the state),” Recktenwald said.

“It is no exaggeration to say that those centers have become the signature achievement of our state’s Access to Justice movement. In a recent survey of all 50 states as well as the territories, Hawai‘i ranked sixth for our efforts to provide access to justice,” said Recktenwald.

Attorneys honored for their service include Sergio Alcubilla, Laura Barzilai, Matthew Bracken, Mark Bradbury, Nancy Budd, Hugo Cabrera, Katherine Caswell, Nicholas Courson, James Forrest, Charles Foster, Margaret Hanson, Sean Hartlieb, Mark Ishmael, Todd Jenson, Ryan Jimenez, Mahealani Krafft, Linda Lach, Aaron Larrimore, Kai Lawrence, Laurel Loo, Larie Manutai, Jay Mason, Emiko Meyers, Andrew Michaels, Shoshana O’Brien, Adam Roversi, Mia Shiraishi, Sherman Shiraishi, Sara Silverman, Margaret Sueoka, Camerson Takamura, Jenna Tatsey and Teresa Tumbaga.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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