West Hawaii Mediation Center staff, Zaheva Knowles, Chelsea LaFrance and Gina Tumasone, attended the annual Access to Justice Conference on June 24, 2016 at the William S. Richardson School of Law on Oahu. Keynote speaker and access to justice champion former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, of the New York Supreme Court shared the important role that non-attorneys, mediators, and pro bono legal aid plays in helping communities obtain critical access to the judicial system. Chief Judge Lippman underscored that most litigants, the majority of whom are low-income, people of color, with limited education, appear in court without a lawyer for critical types of cases: evictions; domestic violence; child custody; guardianship; visitation; support; and paternity. His message to conference attendees was that we must continue to challenge ourselves to find new and creative ways to help those who are in need of legal representation or guidance to ensure that they get their day in court—with the goal being 100% access for Hawaii’s most needy.
Throughout the day a variety of speakers addressed different avenues of access to justice including mediation, attacking implicit bias, understanding the historical and cultural impact of the Hawaiian people as it relates to equal access and the resources available to assist our own clients. Bringing people together of diverse backgrounds and fields of practice gave WHMC staff insight into the important issues and challenges we face. We appreciate the work of the Access to Justice Commission and their hard work putting together this free conference every year. We look forward to participating again next year.