Judges around the nation and here in Hawaii are committed to educating the public this month for National Judicial Outreach Week.
The first-ever National Judicial Outreach Week (NJOW) took place March 5-11, 2017, and has since taken place each March 1-10. Every year, the theme is “Preserving the Rule of Law.”
Each day, more than 30,000 judges throughout America ensure that our nation continues to be ruled by laws and that everyone is equal before the law according to The American Bar Association.
“National Judicial Outreach Week, celebrated this year from March 1-10 is a great opportunity for the Judiciary to enhance public trust and confidence in the court system, and promote understanding of the rule of law,” said Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. “By engaging with the public outside of a formal courtroom setting, judges can provide a unique opportunity to share not only the importance of a fair and impartial court system, but the programs and services that the courts provide, and the work they do on a daily basis.”
Kona District Court Judge Margaret Masunaga kicked off the week early on Friday at Keahuolu Courthouse by speaking to a group of librarians about the purpose of the courts and resources available to them.
Court librarian Lisa Rosile lead the group of seven on a tour of the courthouse ending at the law library, which has sweeping views of the Kona Coast.
There, Rosile and Masunaga talked about the public accessibility to the library, which is open 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, including a legal research computer where patrons can look up case law.
Also available to the public is the Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra Self Help Center open Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. where volunteer attorneys provide legal information and resources available.
Librarian Denise Stromberg was pleased with the information she gleaned about the courthouse and court system.
“You helped us better serve our patrons by helping us learn,” said Stromberg.
Masunaga is planning on speaking to the Hiroshima Kenjin Kai, Fukuoka Kenjin Kai, 4H Club, and court interpreters. She said she tailors her talks depending on the demographic of the group. For the mostly senior citizen Kenjin Kai groups, she will make a presentation about how to protect themselves from phone scams mailbox and identity theft.
“It is a very under-reported crime,” she said noting that many people who fall victim to that type of crime are too embarrassed and ashamed to report it.
For teenagers she will talk about vaping laws, cell phone (distracted driving) laws and speeding.
“I love talking to groups of kids,” said Masunaga. “It inspires kids to meet and know a judge. Especially with (Circuit Court) Judge Fujino and (Circuit Court) Judge Kim, both being local boys, and (Family Court) Judge (Wendy) DeWeese and myself being women.”
Masunaga also said she enjoys informing students of career opportunities within the court system.
She encouraged middle and high school groups, along with any other interested parties to set up tours of the courthouse to learn more about our legal system.
“Matt Mattice at Judiciary History Center can contact judges if he receives a request from the public. Schools, organizations such as Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions Club, churches, service providers, etc., can call him at (808) 539-4998,” she said.
Groups interested in scheduling a tour of Keahuolu Courthouse can contact Rosile at 322-8731.
“I encourage others who may be interested to please contact the court to arrange a session,” said Recktenwald.
Masunaga wanted to let the community know that the courthouse is a public place and anyone can watch open court proceedings to learn more about the justice system.
“It’s not a bad place to come, and it has the best views in Kona,” she said.