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Wednesday, August 9, 2000




By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Cheryl Lapper, supervisor of the District Court Civil Center,
got the new self help center open and ready for business soon
after its opening ceremonies yesterday. Part of the judiciary's
Ho'okele Project, the center helps those unfamiliar
with court processes.



Courts open new
help center

Those unfamiliar with the legal
system can get aid at
two courthouses


Star-Bulletin staff

Concierge and self-help services have been set up at two downtown Honolulu courthouses to help court users navigate the judicial system.

Calling it the "most comprehensive court-based assistance program in the nation," Chief Justice Ronald T.Y. Moon yesterday dedicated the State Judiciary's Ho'okele Court Navigation Project for the Circuit and District Court buildings on Punchbowl and Alakea streets, respectively.


COURTHOUSE HELP

Two courthouses now have concierge and self-help services available:

FIRST CIRCUIT COURT, FAMILY COURT

Bullet 777 Punchbowl St.
Bullet Family Court Service Center: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., second floor.
Bullet Circuit Court Concierge Desk: 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m., lobby.

DISTRICT COURT, CIVIL DIVISION

Bullet 1111 Alakea St., third floor.
Bullet Service Center: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Bullet Concierge Desk: 7:30 to 9 a.m. until construction is completed in November.


According to court statistics, 99 percent of the litigants in small-claims cases and requests for temporary restraining orders are not represented by attorneys.

Also, 35 percent of divorce cases involve at least one unrepresented party.

"Each day, thousands of citizens enter Hawaii's courthouses, many of whom are apprehensive or upset even before they arrive," Moon said.

"Court users often do not know where to go to have their problems resolved, and litigants who are trying to represent themselves have difficulty filling out forms and complying with court procedures."

Moon noted that ho'okele is Hawaiian for "to guide," and that is what the program intends to do.

The court concierge staff will refer or direct users to the appropriate judiciary programs.

At the service centers, litigants will be able to pick up brochures, obtain self-help packets with forms and instructions, use computers to access case status or other information, or use typewriters to fill out documents.

The service centers should cut down on the "significant amount of time" that court staffs now spend explaining procedures and deciphering nonconforming documents, Moon said.

The ho'okele project is a byproduct of the 1996 Citizens Conference on Access to Justice. It identified helping unrepresented litigants as one of the areas of greatest need.

The State Justice Institute and the AmeriCorps Corporation for National Service contributed funds for the project.

The Legislature covered construction and renovation costs, Moon said.



E-mail to City Desk


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