10 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
- ISAAC HALL -
ATTORNEY FOR ANTI-SUPERFERRY
GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Maui lawyer Isaac Hall prevailed in his environmental appeal about the Hawaii Superferry before the state Supreme Court, despite a cadre of attorneys representing the other side.
Attorney kept boat tied up in court
Isaac Hall was the Maui attorney who argued before the Hawaii Supreme Court and mounted a successful legal challenge against the Hawaii Superferry and state of Hawaii.
Only a special exemption by the state Legislature upset Hall's challenge and allowed the start of the Superferry.
Hall, 63, has been recognized by the Sierra Club for arguing more cases on behalf of the environment than any other lawyer in the state.
He's provided legal representation to environmental groups who couldn't afford high attorneys' fees and he's won a number of cases.
In Maui Circuit Court in October, the scene seemed out of a movie -- three attorneys, sometimes four, representing the state and Superferry at one table, and Hall on behalf of citizens groups seated alone at the other.
Hall prevailed in his arguments to require the Superferry to do an environmental study before starting operation.
But the state Legislature in a special session in November intervened to exempt the Superferry and other similar vessels from the environmental requirement.
Hall, who practices law with the help of friends and family members including his wife Dana Naone Hall, occupies a modest office on the bottom of a two-story, hollow-tile and wooden building on Wells Street.
Hall worked for several years as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii on Maui and assisted a number of poor native Hawaiians in land and water disputes against major landowners on Molokai and East Maui.
He went into private practice after the Legal Aid Society narrowed its scope of services during the Reagan era, barring him and other attorneys in his office from being involved in environmental and native rights cases.
For more than 20 years, he has managed to run a private practice while continuing to do pro bono work.
Lucienne de Naie, vice chairperson of the Sierra Club in Hawaii, compared Hall to lawyer Atticus Finch in "To Kill A Mockingbird."
"He's a small-town attorney who has taken on some huge issues of our time," de Naie said.
De Naie said Hall's argument about the Superferry was important in trying to uphold constitutional rights.
Alan Murakami, the supervising attorney for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., said that while other private lawyers might represent a single public interest issue during their lifetime, Hall has been representing numerous groups on behalf of the environment for decades.
"It's also his longevity. Isaac has been doing it since the 1970s," Murakami said.
Murakami said Hall is the antithesis of the greedy, incompetent lawyer cited in jokes.
"You can't make fun of this guy," Murakami said.
Choosing the 10
In a daily countdown, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is profiling 10 people who have made a difference in Hawaii during the past year.
These are people who worked in any field --community service, education, politics, law, labor, medicine, science, business, sports, entertainment, the arts -- to make a difference. Some fought controversial battles in public.
All that matters is that each, to the one, had a devotion to their cause that made a profound impact on Hawaii.
The 10 for 2007
» Dec. 22: John Garibaldi, Superferry
» Dec. 23: Isaac Hall, attorney
» Dec. 24: Deborah Zysman, Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii
» Dec. 25: Jennifer Kishimori, CatFriends
» Dec. 26: Lea Ok Soon Hong, Trust for Public Lands
» Dec. 27: Jaimie Kahale, Life Foundation
» Dec. 28: Moses Kalei Nahonoapiilani Haia III, Native Hawaiian Legal Corp.
» Dec. 29: Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian Airlines CEO
» Dec. 30: Darryl Vincent, United States Veterans Initiative
» Dec. 31: Colt Brennan, U.H. Quarterback