The National Center for Access to Justice released its Justice Index findings Thursday, and Hawaii ranks among the top five states in the country for “best practices of ensuring access to the civil and criminal justice systems.”

We are behind Connecticut but ahead of Minnesota and New York. The District of Columbia had the best scores, Indiana the worst.

The report, according to a press release, measured how accessible the justice system is in four categories:

  • attorney access for low-income litigants
  • support for self-represented litigants
  • support for litigants with limited language proficiency
  • support for people with disabilities

Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald is pleased with the ranking.

Pahoa Hilo Puna courtroom door election challenge

A Hilo courtroom.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

“Our hard work is paying off,” he said in a statement from the Hawaii State Judiciary. “The Hawaii Access to Justice Commission was formed by the Supreme Court in 2008 with these very objectives in mind.  The Justice Index results serve as a testament to how much the Commission, the state judiciary, volunteer attorneys, and our other partners have been able to accomplish with limited resources.

The CJ added, “The findings reflect dedication and commitment toward realizing justice for all in Hawaii, and the effectiveness of the partnerships that the Commission has forged.”

Hawaii ranked No. 1 for providing support for self-represented litigants. The Judiciary points out that it opened self-help centers in every circuit in the state —Hilo, Wailuku, Lihue, Kona and Oahu’s family court and district court. Since the first center opened in 2011, volunteer attorneys have assisted more than 6,200 people at little cost to the public.

The Judiciary has also partnered with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Hawaii State Bar Association to make self-help interactive court forms available online. 

Hawaii also tied for the top position in providing support for people with disabilities. The Judiciary pays the costs for accommodations provided to persons with disabilities — e.g., providing for sign language interpreters or computer assisted real-time transcription for persons who are deaf or have a hearing impairment.

And, the Judiciary’s Office on Equality and Access to the Courts is reported to have made strides in improving its services available to the state’s growing population with “limited English proficiency.” In 2013, the Judiciary provided interpreting services for LEP clients in 40 different languages.

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