Monday, May 31, 1999

Kauai will get a second
judge along with its
new courthouse

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- Kauai will get both a new $31 million courthouse and a second Circuit Court judge by 2001, according to state Judiciary officials.

Funds appropriated by the Legislature and expected to be approved by the governor will allow the state to replace the historic but overcrowded courthouse in Lihue, which was built early in this century.

The old courthouse will remain in use as a state office building.

The new building will be the first courthouse to be built from the ground up anywhere in Hawaii in almost two decades, said Dennis Chen, the Judiciary's capital improvement coordinator. The last was built on Maui in the early 1980s.

Lawmakers again turned down a $7.5 million request from Kauai County to begin work on a new police headquarters. Many legislative observers predicted Kauai would get one, but not both, structures, and said the courthouse was the most likely because it will be a state building.

Chen said the design of the building still is under discussion, but it will contain five courtrooms -- the current building has only two -- and enough space for all of Kauai's Circuit Court and District Court judges and their staffs.

It will be built on Kapule Highway south of the entrance to Lihue Airport. If the county decides to go it alone on a new police headquarters, it would be located next door.

The Legislature appropriated $795,000 for design and initial construction work in fiscal year 2000 and $30 million to complete the structure in fiscal year 2001.

Also appropriated for fiscal 2001 was $109,000 for a second Circuit Court bench on Kauai, the first time the county will have two.

Either sitting Judge George Masuoka or the new judge is expected to take on a large number of Family Court cases in the wake of complaints that too many are being handled by temporary judges, and that parties rarely see the same judge twice.

Masuoka said the new judge and the new building are tied together because there is no way to shoehorn another judge in the current courthouse.

"I hope I see them both during my term,'' said Masuoka, who is at the beginning of a second 10-year term. He said the Maui courthouse took 20 years from planning to completion.

Sen. Avery Chumbley, co-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and primary sponsor of the new courthouse, said he will continue to press for completion in 2001.

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