Hilo Attorneys Recognized for Volunteer Service to the East Hawaii Community

Forty-three attorneys were recognized during the Self-Help Center Recognition Awards on December 2nd for providing free legal information to more than 700 Hawaii Island residents who sought assistance at the Hilo Courthouse Self-Help Center in 2016.  Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald attended the recognition ceremony at the Hilo Yacht Club.

judiciaryThe Hilo Self-Help Center was established in July 2012 as part of the Hawaii State Judiciary’s commitment to increasing access to justice in the courts. Since opening, the Hilo Self-Help Center has assisted more than 3,700 people, with volunteer attorneys providing over 900 hours of legal information on civil matters, such as temporary restraining orders and divorce.  For over four years, these services have been provided at almost no cost to the state.

“I am grateful to the attorneys who volunteer their time at our Self-Help Centers, assisting individuals representing themselves in civil legal cases.  The generosity of these attorneys has been essential to increasing access to justice in our civil courts,” said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

The volunteers were recognized by Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Third Circuit Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra, Chief Court Administrator of the Third Circuit Lester Oshiro, and Third Circuit Deputy Chief Court Administrators Dawn West and Cheryl Salmo.

The individual attorneys who were honored are as follows:  Al Konishi, Robert Crudele, Paul Hamano, Melody Parker, William Heflin, Jeff Ng, Chris Schlueter, Damir Kouliev, Francis Alcain, Jennifer Ng, Laureen Martin, Chris Rothfus, J. Yoshimoto, Raymond Hasegawa, Joy San Buenaventura, Al Thompson, Austin Hsu, Doug Halsted, Dwayne Lerma, Joanne Goya, Kenneth Goodenow, Michelle Oishi, Nelson Kinoshita, Amy Self, Charlene Iboshi, Dakota Frenz, Darien Nagata, Edith Kawai, Harry Eliason, Jennifer Wharton, Jo Kim, Kanani Laubach, Lincoln Ashida, Lionel Riley, Lynne Kushi, Michael Kagami, Peter Kubota, Ryan Caday, Steven Strauss, Sylvia Wan, Ted Hong, Zachary Wingert, and Mitch Roth.

Chief Justice Recktenwald acknowledged the strong support of the late State Representative Clift Tsuji, who had attended the ceremony in previous years to recognize the volunteer attorneys.  “Representative Tsuji’s commitment to access to justice for all was truly inspiring, and is part of the legacy that he leaves for this community.”

Also acknowledged were AmeriCorps Advocates Samantha Puluole-Mitchell and Alexandria Agdeppa, as well as Legal Aid of Hawaii Staff Attorney Mark Haines, who, through the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, organize the Self-Help Center at the Hilo Courthouse each week.

Valerie Grab, Managing Attorney of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii’s Hilo Office said, “I am so pleased by the support the Hawaii County Bar Association and our local attorneys have given to this effort.  Every week, Hawaii Island residents use the Hilo Self-Help Center to gain information that helps them meet their legal needs.  The Hilo Self-Help Center is the product of a statewide collaboration of the Hawaii State Judiciary, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, and the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.  With the donation of their time and talents, today’s honorees are helping to make access to justice a reality for the Big Island community.”

The Chief Justice also thanked the Hawaii County Bar Association, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, and the Access to Justice Commission for their support of the Self-Help Center.

Attorneys who would like to become involved with the Hilo Self-Help Center are invited to attend the next volunteer attorney training on Friday, January 20, 2017.  To register, please visit: http://www.legalaidhawaii.org/pro-bono-attorney.html.

For more information on the Hilo Self-Help Center as well as the Self-Help Desk at the Kona Courthouse, visit the Hawaii State Judiciary website, click on the “Self-Help” tab at the top of the page, and look for “Self-Help Centers” (see: http://bit.ly/23bEaXX).

Hu Honua Bioenergy Files Federal Complaint

Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC, a baseload 24/7 biomass electric plant on the Hamakua Coast on Hawaii Island, filed a civil antitrust complaint in federal court against Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaii Electric Light Co., NextEra Energy Resources, and Hamakua Energy Partners, Wednesday (Nov. 30, 2016).

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Hu Honua had a Public Utilities Commission-approved power purchase agreement with Hawaii Electric Light, which was unlawfully terminated as a result of actions by the defendants.

“Hu Honua regrets that the matter has come to this,” said Harold Robinson IV, president of Island BioEnergy, a majority owner of Hu Honua, “we’d rather have a power plant than a lawsuit. For almost two years we have unsuccessfully attempted to obtain Hawaiian Electric Light’s agreement to our reasonable requests to extend two milestone dates. Hawaiian Electric Light’s refusal to provide these extensions has left us with no recourse but to file suit to recover our substantial damages of $120 million that was invested in our 50 percent complete biomass power plant and our lost profits of $435 million.”

The complaint was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court, Hawaii District, by the legal teams of Bronster Fujichaku Robbins of Honolulu and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP of San Francisco.

The detailed allegations and the project’s complex history are outlined in the complaint, which alleges violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act and Hawaii unfair competition laws, as well as breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, and seeks to recover actual and treble damages. Hu Honua asks for a jury trial.

Robinson noted that “the concerted effort to monopolize electricity generated on the Big Island has not only blocked the state’s progress toward the achievement of its energy self-sufficiency mandates set by Hawaii Law, but also stunted the creation of almost 200 local jobs at the facility, in agriculture and ancillary services.”

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Announces Closures – Thurston Lava Tube Floods

Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) and the Kahuku Unit are closed due to impacts from heavy rainfall and flash flooding. The summit of Mauna Loa remains closed to all day use and overnight camping. Closures remain in effect until it is safe to reopen.

A closure sign at the entrance to Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube)/NPS Photo

A closure sign at the entrance to Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube)/NPS Photo

On Friday, the floor of the lava tube was flooded with rain, and water covered the electrical conduit system. The power was shut off, but visitor access is prohibited until further notice.

The floor of a dark Nāhuku flooded with rainwater Friday afternoon, with the power off./NPS Photo

The floor of a dark Nāhuku flooded with rainwater Friday afternoon, with the power off./NPS Photo

The Kahuku Unit, which is usually open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, was closed for the day on Friday morning due to flooding and a road closure on Highway 11. Staff will reassess conditions Saturday morning, and determine if Kahuku will open for the weekend.

The National Weather Service extended the flash flood warning for Hawai‘i Island Friday afternoon through 5:15 p.m. HST.

On Thursday, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the summit of Mauna Loa that remains in effect. Heavy rain and high winds pummeled the 13,677-foot summit, and abundant snow was visible on webcams and at sunset Thursday.

Rainwater ponding along the rainforest trail at Nāhuku. NPS Photo

Rainwater ponding along the rainforest trail at Nāhuku. NPS Photo

The summit closure is in effect above the Red Hill (Pu‘u‘ula‘ula) Cabin. Hikers can still obtain a backcountry permit to hike to and stay at Red Hill Cabin, but backcountry permits to areas above 10,000 feet are suspended and day hiking is prohibited. Hikers going to Red Hill will be advised during the permit process to proceed with caution and carry appropriate gear.

“Park rangers will constantly monitor the roads and destinations within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park during this storm, and additional closures may be warranted,” said Chief Ranger John Broward.

Representative Joy A. San Buenaventura Chosen for 2016 Western Legislative Academy

The Council of State Governments West (CSG West), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization serving Western state legislators of both parties in 13 Western states, has selected Hawaii Representative Joy A. San Buenaventura as a participant in its prestigious training institute for lawmakers in their first four years of service.  The purpose of the Western Legislative Academy is to build excellence and effectiveness in state legislators in the Western region.

rep-joy-fb-pictureAdmission to the Western Legislative Academy is very competitive and is based on commitment to public service, desire to improve personal legislative effectiveness and interest in improving the legislative process.  Out of 88 applicants from throughout the Western United States, 44 state legislators were selected as members of the Western Legislative Academy Class of 2016.

The Western Legislative Academy convenes from November 30 – December 3, 2016 in Colorado Springs, Colorado for three and a half days of intensive training in subjects such as legislative institutions, ethics, communications, negotiations, time management and leadership.  Faculty is drawn from academia, former military and the private sector.  A highlight of the training is an afternoon at the US Air Force Academy working on personal assessments and team building.

San Buenaventura is a 2nd term Hawaii State Representative for the District of Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii. She is vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee and is a member of Transportation and Housing committees.  She is one of only two state representatives in the medical marijuana working group.

Prior to being a legislator, she has been a country attorney for more than 30 years specializing in appeals, litigation and family law.  She has volunteered as a mediator with Kuikahi mediation, as an arbitrator with the Judiciary and as a lawyer with Volunteer Legal Services and with the Judiciary’s self-help clinic.  Joy has had several jury trials and multiple bench trials, and 25 years ago, she was the first attorney in the state to pursue breast implant litigation. She has won all of her appeals to the Hawaii Supreme Court; is a former per diem District Court Judge from 1991-1995, the youngest judge then; and a former University of Hawaii lecturer.

The Council of State Governments West is the Western region of the national Council of State Governments, which is based in Lexington, Kentucky.  Regional offices of CSG are located in Sacramento, Chicago, Atlanta and New York.

Funding for the Academy comes from the Colorado Springs-based El Pomar Foundation, which is dedicated to excellence in nonprofit organizations, and from Western state legislatures and corporate sponsors. The El Pomar Foundation also donates the campus for the Western Legislative Academy.

Victims Identified in Kona Crash

A woman and a man died in a two-vehicle traffic crash Thursday afternoon (December 1) in Kona near the 31.5-mile marker of Highway 190.hpd-badge
They have been identified as 45-year-old Jeongah Hyun of Kailua-Kona and 46-year-old Iljung Nam of South Korea.

Responding to a 12:35 p.m. call Thursday, police determined that Hyun had been operating a silver 2006 Mazda multi-purpose vehicle on Highway 190 just north of the 31.5-mile marker, when she crossed left of center and was broadsided by a white 2013 Peterbilt dump truck that was heading south on Highway 190. The operator of the dump truck, a 46-year-old Honokaʻa man, was taken to Kona Community Hospital with minor injuries. Hyun and Nam, her passenger, were pronounced dead at the hospital at 6:10 p.m. and 6:11 p.m., respectively.

Autopsies have been ordered to determine the exact causes of their deaths.

The Traffic Enforcement Unit has initiated a negligent homicide investigation. Police ask anyone who witnessed the crash to call Officer Christopher Kapua-Allison at 326-4646, extension 229. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300.

This is the 30th traffic fatality this year compared with 17 at this time last year.