Judiciary plans should consider possible Kapolei circuit
Ground has been broken for construction of a courthouse for Family Court proceedings.
STATE and city officials broke ground this week for construction of a Kapolei Courthouse Complex
, but questions remain about its use and eventual need for expansion. The plan to move all Family Court facilities from the Punchbowl Street courthouse to Kapolei has been scaled back, and attorneys in domestic cases call for an entirely new court circuit based in Kapolei. That idea should not be buried by the groundbreaking.
Former Chief Justice Herman Lum proposed the court complex nearly two decades ago. In recent years, Chief Justice Ronald Moon gained the Legislature's approval to pay for the complex, which also includes a juvenile detention center.
The court building will have one large courtroom for jury trials in cases of domestic violence and 12 smaller nonjury courtrooms. The initial proposal included four large courtrooms; the reduction means that the venue for many Family Court jury trials will remain at the Honolulu courthouse, which has three jury courtrooms for domestic-violence cases.
Ironically, the expansion comes at a time when many of the Punchbowl Street building's fourth floor courtrooms, where trials of civil cases are conducted, have become dormant because of the judiciary's success in getting people to settle cases out of court.
A 1998 survey of more than 3,000 people polled at Family Court by the judiciary found that nearly two-thirds of those appearing at the court were Leeward, Central or Windward Oahu residents. For them, a Kapolei court would be more convenient.
Lawyers in the Family Law Section of the Hawaii Bar Association have opposed the plan, asserting that more than half the people surveyed work in Honolulu and would be inconvenienced by having to drive to Kapolei.
Adrienne King, chairwoman of the lawyers' group, testified before the Legislature in February for "creation of a fully integrated satellite court system in Kapolei, with Circuit, District and Family Court facilities." King told the Star-Bulletin's Rosemarie Bernardo that she now favors creation of a new judicial circuit in Kapolei, separate from and not an arm of the Honolulu circuit.
A bill to create a Kapolei-based circuit encompassing the Ewa, Waianae, Waialua and Wahiawa districts was introduced in this year's Legislature but was shelved early. The proposal noted that 22 percent of the state's residents and 30 percent of Oahu residents live in Central or Leeward Oahu. The bill would have provided for the assignment of four judges to the new circuit.
As the "Second City" of Kapolei grows, the creation of a judicial circuit independent of the Honolulu circuit might receive more consideration. The Judiciary's building plans should be flexible enough to embrace that possibility.