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South Kohala court hearings moving to Kona

The South Kohala District Court courtroom in Waimea will be temporarily closing beginning Dec. 1 for all court hearings, but the courthouse will remain open for other court services.

Third Circuit Chief Judge Robert D.S. Kim said the temporary closure stems from a shortage of courtroom staff and resources. All current cases will redirected to the Keahuolu Courthouse in Kailua-Kona or the Hale Kaulike Courthouse in Hilo.

South Kohala District Family Court Judge Mahilani Hiatt will be temporarily transferred to Family Court at the Keahuolu Courthouse where she will hear both South Kohala and Kona cases. Kona Family Court cases have been heard by per diem judges in Kona since Judge Wendy DeWeese has been presiding over circuit court cases after the June 30 retirement of Judge Melvin Fujino. A permanent replacement for Fujino has yet to be appointed.

With Kona District Court Judge Margaret Masunaga’s retirement on Dec. 1, the additional case load resulting in the South Kohala District Court closing will be heard by per diem judges until her replacement is appointed.

The number of cases heard at the South Kohala District Court can vary greatly from month to month according to Jan Kagehiro, Hawaii State Judiciary Communications and Community Relations director. There were about 1,025 cases heard in September and about 850 in October. Cases beginning Dec. 1 will be split between Kona and Hilo.

The Third Circuit Court will make every effort to allow for remote hearings where possible, the Judiciary said.

The South Kohala District Courthouse will remain open to receive documents, process payments, and for other non-court hearing functions.

“We appreciate the community’s patience and understanding as we work expeditiously to reopen the South Kohala Courthouse,” said Kim.

Anyone needing assistance should call the Keahuolu Courthouse at (808) 322-8700 or Hale Kaulike Courthouse at (808) 961-7470 or send an email to skohalafc.3cc@courts.hawaii.gov.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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