East Hawaii News

State Court to Open Self-Help Center in Hilo

June 27, 2012, 1:52 PM HST
* Updated June 27, 5:11 PM
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An opening ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Friday for a new Self-Help Center at Hale Kaulike, the state courthouse in Hilo.

Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Third Circuit Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra, and Hawaii County Bar Association President Darien Nagata are scheduled to speak at the event.

Beginning Monday, July 2, the center will be open Mondays and Fridays from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Located on the first floor of the courthouse, the Self-Help Center will be staffed by volunteer attorneys. It is designed for self-represented litigants involved in civil matters, and the attorneys will provide legal information to those litigants at no charge.

The idea is that volunteer attorneys donate their time during their lunch hour, initially two days a week. They’ll provide general legal information and not legal advice. In other words, they won’t represent individuals but can be available to answer general questions.

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They will provide legal information on matters such as divorce and family law, small claims, foreclosure, landlord tenant issues and other civil cases. They will not provide legal information on criminal cases.

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The Self-Help Center is a collaborative effort of the state Judiciary, Hawaii State Bar Association, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Hawaii County Bar Association. There is no public funding for this effort.

The state bar association picked up the cost of liability insurance, a computer and printer, and installed an internet connection and phone line. The Judiciary has provided office space for use.

This statewide effort is supported by the Access to Justice Commission, an independent, tax-exempt grantmaking organization founded in 1969, for self-represented litigants who cannot afford a lawyer through the judicial process.

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Kauai established a Self-Help Center last year and Maui is in the process of trying to establish one in its circuit.

Initially, people will be served on a walk-in basis only. The Self-Help Center telephone number is 961-0609.

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