Students witness high court in action

  • Supreme Court Justices Richard Pollack, left, Paula Nakayama, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Sabrina McKenna and Michael Wilson take questions from students at Courts in the Community Thursday at Kealakehe High School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Sitting and retired judges join dignitaries and students at Courts in the Community Thursday at Kealakehe High School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald hears arguments Thursday at Courts in the Community at Kealakehe High School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Hawaii Supreme Court Justices Paula Nakayama and Richard Pollack hear oral arguments Thursday at Courts in the Community at Kealakehe High School.

  • The Hawaii Supreme Court hears oral arguments Thursday at Courts in the Community at Kealakehe High School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Supreme Court Justices Richard Pollack, left, Paula Nakayama, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Sabrina McKenna and Michael Wilson hear oral arguments at Courts in the Community Thursday at Kealakehe High School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — More than 400 students sitting in the bleachers at the Kealakehe High School gymnasium stood instantly at the sound of a gavel.

Hawaii Supreme Court Justices clad in black robes walked into the gym and sat at a table, prepared to hear oral arguments for the State v. Kaneaiakala. Thursday’s satellite court proceeding was part of the Judiciary’s Courts in the Community outreach program.

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“This is designed to give students a unique hands-on experience on how the judicial system works,” said Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald after the hearing.

While the Supreme Court typically meets on Oahu, the justices have tried to take the judicial process to the schools since 2012. Hearing real cases, Recktenwald said, they work to get out to communities twice a year.

About 4,000 students across the state have sat in on Hawaii Supreme Court hearings through this program. On Thursday, students from Kealakehe High School, Konawaena High School, Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Ke Kula o Ehunuikaimalino, West Hawaii Explorations Academy and West Hawaii Home School were in attendance.

“It really is an empowering program,” the chief justice said. “For us to see the students, it inspires us and recommits us to inspire justice for all.”

Part of the program involves attorneys from the West Hawaii Bar Association volunteering time at the schools to educate the students about the case they will be hearing. Donna Payesko, association president, said attorneys try to go to classes three times and put together a curriculum to teach kids about the case so they’re not lost when they watch the hearing.

“They’re invested in it by the time they come here,” Payesko said.

Payesko added it’s important that students learn how the justice system works because it gives them insight into a piece of American government.

“The attorneys share what we do and impact the leaders of tomorrow,” she said.

Evan Richards, 18, and Cheyenne Kelekoma, 17, both Kealakehe High School seniors, had been learning about State v. Kaneaiakala and doing practice hearings in class.

The case centers on defendant-appellant Bronson Kaneaiakala appealing his 2016 burglary judgment and sentencing of 10 years on grounds that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress identification of the defendant.

After watching the actual oral arguments, they said, it didn’t go as they expected.

“I expected a lot more back and forth,” Kelekoma said. “There was more respect toward the justices than I realized.”

Richards was surprised by the amount of interjections by the justices during the arguments.

“It’s tough to be a lawyer,” Richards said.

Both teens felt they came away with new knowledge of the judicial process. For Richards, it made it feel real.

“It wasn’t just on TV,” he said. “It was a cool experience.”

Kelekoma enjoyed meeting Associate Justice Sabrina S. McKenna.

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“I learned how relatable she is and that we can achieve anything we put our minds to,” Kelekoma said.

Na Leo TV will air a program featuring the complete oral argument and interviews — with students, Supreme Court justices, and other attendees — on Channel 53 at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Monday and 1 p.m. Wednesday. It will also air on Channel 54 at 7:30 tonight, 3 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 a.m. Tuesday and 12:30 p.m. May 3.

  1. sonneofmanisrael April 27, 2018 11:17 am

    Did the members identify themselves as agents by contract? The students were being misled, no doubt.


    1. Hilo Jack April 27, 2018 3:15 pm

      Well, we have a POTUS who refuses to identify himself as a russian agent by contract, thus misleading the American People as well as the rest of the world.


      1. randy April 28, 2018 9:41 pm

        There is no evidence for your statement. Perhaps you have some evidence that no one else has. If so, tell us all.


        1. Hilo Jack April 29, 2018 5:11 am

          Actually, let’s do it this way:

          Prove to me he is not


          1. randy April 29, 2018 8:01 pm

            Prove to me that you are not. You can’t prove Trump did and you can’t prove you did not either. Maybe we should start an investigation into your collusion. Just because you can’t prove you did not must proved you did!


          2. Hilo Jack April 29, 2018 8:33 pm

            The foundation of the republican party has been rooted in the basis of “trust but verify” with respect to Russia.

            The orange haired baboon has called for HRC’s imprisonment along with other political foes, has called virtually every democrat a vile filthy name and yet wants to seemingly make love to Putin.

            While your intellect may be way to low to understand the con man Trump is, the proof as to what it is you are as a paid Trump troll no doubt tied to Russia is as clear as the nose on your face.

            Again, prove to me the leader of a party that has been anti Russia for generations suddenly sees Russia as his friend.

            And no quoting FOX news.

            Hope you get a bonus for tonight’s posts.


          3. Hilo Jack April 29, 2018 8:34 pm

            PS – I don’t have to prove anything to you.

            Your own words prove to everybody what you are.


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