Monday, January 20, 1997

Name: William Hoshijo
Age: 39
Education: San Francisco State, University of California-Davis Law School
Occupation: Lawyer
Hobbies: Soccer

Putting people first

William Hoshijo never thought he'd get rich off his law degree, and 14 years after earning it, he's still living up to his expectations.

While many of his classmates at the University of California-Davis law school went off to fast-paced corporate jobs, Hoshijo's college idealism stayed with him. He dreamed of putting his education to use for those who couldn't afford legal services.

With a group of other young lawyers in his home state, he formed Na Loio No Na Kanaka - the Lawyers for the People of Hawaii.

"When I came back and we started organizing this office, some people told me, 'Why don't you go out and get a job, get some experience, save some money, and then you'll be in a better position to start a new project or program,'" he said. "I guess I had a simplistic view of things. I thought, 'I've been a student. I'm used to living on next to nothing. It won't be much of a change.'"

That was 1983. Today, Na Loio is a thriving - albeit continually cash-strapped - nonprofit public interest law office. Hoshijo has served as executive director since its inception, overseeing a staff of two or three lawyers, depending on available funds.

Hoshijo didn't stop there. He joined the boards of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, the Inter-Agency Council on Immigration Services, the Council on Language Policy and Planning and the Early School, and became chairman of the Hawaii Commission on Access to Justice.

He also lobbied the Legislature to create a special state panel to deal with fair housing and employment and other civil rights issues. In 1988, the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission was formed.

Gov. Ben Cayetano named Hoshijo to the commission last year. This month, he resigns to become its executive director. He replaces Linda Tseu, who is leaving to run her family's business.

Hoshijo was an ideal choice, said commission Chairwoman Amy Agbayani.

"He just has a real good reputation in the community for his knowledge in the civil rights area," she said. "Since day one he has been working in community nonprofit organizations. His whole life is sort of like pro bono."

Hoshijo said he's looking forward to the leadership role he'll have in his new job, but he'll miss the direct contact with his clients at Na Loio and the boost he gets from helping them.

"It may sound a little corny," he said, "but I really do believe in justice, and believe that if justice is available only to a few, then it's not truly justice."

By Jean Christensen, Star-Bulletin

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