I write with an update on the 2023 legislative session, which came to a close on May 4th. It was an outstanding session for the Judiciary, and I deeply appreciate the HSBA and all who supported our efforts.
Budget - Operating
Based on our review of current materials, the Legislature appropriated all of the operating cost items the Judiciary requested and more. Our requests totaled approximately $7.8m, and the Legislature appropriated approximately $8.2 million on top of our base budget.
Significantly, this includes restored funding for a Circuit judge position in First Circuit, and for two District Court judges and one per diem judge in Second Circuit. The Legislature also funded and provided three additional full-time equivalent staff for the First Circuit District Court. The Legislature funded and provided a position for a new District Court judge in the First Circuit as well, but the necessary statutory amendment to authorize an additional judge did not pass so we'll need to address that in the future. Collectively, these will pave the way for much-needed support to our Circuit bench in the First Circuit and will allow for additional capacity for staffing in Second Circuit and in District Court in the First Circuit. The Legislature also continued funding at the same level for residential programs for children to remain with their parents, and provided additional funding for purchase of services for mediation statewide.
These are just a sampling of the impactful and broad-based support we are grateful to receive, and each circuit received important restoration of funding for key staff positions, among other things.
Budget - Capital Improvements
In total for capital improvements, the Judiciary requested $16.2m and, based on our review of current materials, received just under $21m in the following appropriations:
- $4.5m for Ka'ahumanu Hale elevator replacement;
- $4.15m as requested for phase 3 of 3 to address the roof on Kaua'i;
- $3m as requested to continue to address A/C issues at Ali'iōlani Hale;
- $300k as requested to address A/C condensate discharge at Hoapili Hale;
- $3m in lump sum to address emerging capital improvements issues; and
- $6m for planning, design, construction, and relocation of the O'ahu Children's Justice Center.
I am also thankful to the Legislature and to the HSBA for support for the Uniform Probate Code and Probate Court Practices Committee, with passage of Senate Bill 483, S.D.1, H.D.2, C.D.1, which updates the Uniform Probate Code and was part of our Judiciary Legislative Package. Other measures in our legislative package came close but ultimately did not pass; we are thankful for the support and will continue to work with stakeholders on next steps. I also appreciate working with legislators, the Bar, and others on issues around those suffering from mental health challenges in the justice system and in the area of landlord-tenant mediation—some key measures ultimately did not pass but our efforts in these areas are continuing in earnest.
The Legislature also provided funding and positions in support of the Criminal Justice Research Institute, which will enable the Institute to establish a centralized statewide criminal pretrial justice data reporting and collection system that will vastly expand capacity for research and analysis of this important area. In addition, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 911, S.D.1, H.D.1, a product of the Committee on Equality and Access to the Courts, to allow those who have been convicted of a felony and have been finally discharged to serve as jurors.
In all, I am very appreciative of Senate President Ronald Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki, Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz, House Finance Chair Kyle Yamashita, Senate Judiciary Chair Karl Rhoads, and House Judiciary and Hawai‘ian Affairs Chair David Tarnas, and many others for support of the Judiciary's budget as a whole, and Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran and Representative Scott Nishimoto for much needed CIP funding. I also appreciate the support of many other legislators.
As always, the Bar has been an invaluable supporter in many ways—HSBA's support of the Judiciary budget, and HSBA and almost two dozen former HSBA Presidents opposing Senate Bill 1074 are just two vivid examples from this session. The HSBA and many bar-related organizations, individual attorneys, and many other organizations in the community testified to share concerns with an early version of S.B. 1074, which proposed constitutional amendments to the manner in which justices and judges are appointed, consented to, and retained. I am grateful that the Bar has been absolutely stalwart the the face of challenges to the independence of the Judiciary.
I and our entire Judiciary will continue to work daily to ensure our courts are impartial and independent, and to earn and enhance public trust and confidence in our courts. We deeply appreciate your support, and as always, are grateful for the assistance of Pat Mau-Shimizu.