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April 03, 2020 National Conference of State Trial Judges

Hawaii’s State Courts Celebrate National Judicial Outreach

By Hon. Margaret K. Masunaga, Kealakekua, HI

The Hawaii Judiciary got a jump start in celebrating National Judicial Outreach Week with its first event on February 28, 2020. A group of librarians toured the new Keahuolu Courthouse, located on the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Court Librarian Lisa Rosile has the best workspace on the third floor with picture windows facing the Pacific Ocean. If you have binoculars, you may be able to see whales in the distance.  Wild goats have been seen in the perimeter of the public parking lot. This is the backdrop for preserving the rule of law and educating the public about the third co-equal branch of government, the Judiciary.

“National Judicial Outreach Week, celebrated from March 1-10, 2020, is a great opportunity for the Judiciary to enhance public trust and confidence in the court system, and promote understanding of the rule of law,” said Hawaii Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. “By engaging with the public outside of a formal courtroom setting, judges can provide a unique opportunity to share not only the importance of a fair and impartial court system, but the programs and services that the courts provide, and the work they do on a daily basis.  I am grateful to the members of the Hawaii State Trial Judges Association for volunteering their time for this event, and understand that sessions included all Maui judges, judges from Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii Island.  I encourage others who may be interested to please contact the court to arrange a session.”

There are 73 state court judges in Hawaii, 42 males, and 31 female judges.  Each day, more than 30,000 judges across the United States of America ensure our nation is ruled by laws.

Hawaii judges celebrate the swearing in of a new judge on the Big Island with the wearing of orchid and maile leis. Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald (center), appoints District Court and Family Court Judges in Hawaii.

On March 4, 2020, Judge Margaret Masunaga and Judge Joseph P. Florendo met with Debi Tulang-DeSilva and Melody Kubo from the Hawaii Judiciary, executive branch representatives, current Spanish interpreter,  and court interpreters-in-training. Judge Masunaga explained how a court interpreter is provided for defendants in Kona District Court on “International Day,” the first Wednesday of each month.  

Judge Margaret Masunaga (far left), and Judge Joseph Florendo (second from right), met with persons involved in the Hawaii Judiciary’s court interpreter program at Keahuolu Courthouse on 3/4/2020 during the American Bar Association, Judicial Division’s National Judicial Outreach Week.

Access to Justice is important to judges.  Hawaii leads the nation when it comes to language access in the courtroom, according to the National Center for Access to Justice (2016).  Chief Justice Recktenwald said, “we are very pleased that we are recognized for providing Hawaii’s residents with some of the highest levels of service in the country.”  Interpreters in the Keahuolu Courthouse have interpreted the following languages:  Hawaiian, Marshallese, Spanish, Kosraean, Japanese, Tongan, Mandarin, Cantonese, Ilocano, Visayan, Tagalog, Thai, Indonesian, Dutch, Samoan, Korean, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Russian, French, and American Sign Language.

When Judge Masunaga spoke to the Hiroshima Kenjin Kai club on March 1, 2020, she asked an attorney to translate her speech into Japanese about how to avoid mailbox theft, telephone scams, and making sure your family knows about your wishes in case you cannot care for yourself.

Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna was born in Tokyo, Japan, and is fluent in Japanese.  Associate Justice Paula Nakayama is also Japanese.  Associate Justice Michael D. Wilson is part Portuguese. 

On Hawaii Island, current full-time judges are Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Chief Justice Recktenwald believes the having court interpreters fluent in over 23 different languages, and the diversity of the judges, are consistent with Hawaii being the Aloha State.

The Hawaii Supreme Court is located in the historic Aliiolani Hale built in 1871 in front of the statue of Kamehameha the Great in Honolulu. In the photo is Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald (center), Associate Justice Sabrina S. McKenna (right), Associate Justice Paula A. Nakayama, Associate Justice Richard W. Pollack (top left), and Associate Justice Michael D. Wilson.