Similar to Alaska, Hawaii, with one large urban center in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, and the rest of the population spread among the other seven islands, experiences geographic and infrastructure challenges to traditional modes of legal services delivery. Like Alaska, the justice community in Hawaii has developed some key strengths to compensate for these challenges:
- Hawaii has a large consortium of service providers – cutting across the legal, health and human services sectors – that has evolved to meet the growing needs of a geographically dispersed community.
- Beginning in 2011, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii, the Hawaii State Bar Association, local bar associations, and the Hawaii State Judiciary have collaborated to establish self-help centers now located in every circuit court in the state. These centers are staffed by volunteer attorneys and LASH’s AmeriCorps advocates.
- The Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i has developed over 40 online interactive pro se interviews utilizing Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive, along with a robust collection of legal rights guides and videos for LawHelp.org/HI. These resources have been integrated with Legal Aid’s service delivery, and promoted to pro se litigants through partnerships with public libraries and the Hawaii State Judiciary, Legal Aid also recently worked with its justice community partners to develop a guided triage tool for people searching for legal assistance to more easily identify resources and referrals. The service provider analysis undertaken for this project will provide an important foundation for the Portal initiative.
- The community has innovated in other ways to meet needs across the state, including through hotlines, nonprofit mediation programs such as the Mediation Center for the Pacific (one of the first established in the country) and pop-up legal clinics in the more remote areas. In 2017, the National Center for Access to Justice ranked Hawaii as among the top three states in the country with practices aimed at making access to justice a reality for all people, and Hawaii was ranked first in the country for providing support to litigants with Limited English Proficiency.
With these attributes and its strong grounding in local community needs, it’s easy to see why the Aloha state’s justice community earned this recognition and is such fertile ground for this pilot initiative.
Because of this demonstrated spirit of innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and robust networks of providers, each offers a unique ideal environment to pilot the concept of the portal project.
We recently conducted kickoff meetings in both states to connect with local stakeholders and providers. It was an excellent opportunity to discuss many of the unique challenges and needs faced by these states, again reaffirming that we have the right partners on board to pilot the Legal Assist project.