It is February, one of, if not my favorite month of each
year, since just about everyone in my family has a birthday in the month of
hearts and valentines. The first month
of the year zipped by and I want to tell you about a lot of interesting
happenings and issues that you should be aware of.
Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald addressed your HSBA
Officers and Board of Directors a few weeks ago and told us that the
Judiciary’s number one construction budget priority is a new courthouse in
Kona. The site has been selected and the
project appears ready to move forward if Hawaii’s legislature will appropriate
the needed funding.
I attended the Hawaii County Bar Association’s January
meeting and listened to Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra inform the roughly 70 members
in the audience how a new courthouse in Kona would not only provide the first
real court building on the western side of the Big Island, but present a critically
needed resource for our entire State and the citizens of Hawaii.
These viewpoints provided the framework for testimony
that your HSBA Officers and Directors approved sending to our Legislature in
full support of the Judiciary’s funding request. Citing the need for security and safety for
all, including lawyers, court staff, parties, jurors and witnesses, our
testimony noted how patient the people of Kona have been while other courtrooms
have been erected around our State. It
is now Kona’s turn and I ask each of you to take a few moments to write to your
State Representative and State Senator to support the Judiciary’s funding
request to build this courthouse.
We live in paradise with beautiful trade wind weather and
none of us have to deal with ice, sleet, snow and freezing temperatures. My furry PA ‘twin from a different mother’,
Punxsutawney Phil, predicted six more weeks of winter and along with a large
contingent of Hawaii lawyers, I braved the Chicago weather last week (the
thermometer never reached 20 degrees) and attended the American Bar Association
Attending the national meetings gives us an opportunity
to see up close what issues are affecting our profession. One of the key take-away messages I brought
back with me from Chicago is the double barreled threat facing the future of
lawyers and legal services in Hawaii and across our nation. The cost of obtaining a legal education is
rising faster than the rate of inflation.
The availability of legal related employment for new law school
graduates is shrinking. On the other
hand, HSBA authorized a study of our membership and while subject to many
variables, it appears likely that the growing number of lawyers in Hawaii will
peak in a few years and then slowly begin to decline.
How will these parallel tracks affect the legal
profession in Hawaii? Will the delivery
of legal services, already demonstrably poor for many in dire need of help, be
available and if so, how?
It is clear that every State and Bar Association across
the country is facing similar concerns and addressing similar questions. HSBA is studying these issues in conjunction
with other legal organizations including the Court.
Rather than watch and see how these issues play out, I
urge each and every one of you to share any ideas you may have with an officer,
director, committee member or staff member of HSBA. Please consider volunteering for the Self
Help Centers or Access to Justice Rooms.
Please let the HSBA staff know if you attended a Hawaii public high
school for involvement in our upcoming Civics Education initiative. Finally, please answer the call when we ask
for volunteers for Bar projects and functions, including this year’s dinner.
Every little bit makes a difference. So send that note, that letter, that
email. Call your Representative and your
Senator. Please step up and be heard,
you will feel better having done so.