Mark Rechtenwald, president of the state court system, has called for more funding for conversion programs.
Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Rechtenwald compared the looming challenges of resolving the state’s mental health and homelessness crises to the giant North Shore waves faced by Eddie Aikau, whose namesake surfing competition was held for the first time in seven years last weekend. .
Senior surfer, lifeguard and Hokulia crew member disappeared after rowing alone to find help for the crew of a ship after it capsized between Oahu and Molokai in 1978.
“Just as Eddie went, all three branches of government must be bold and courageous in finding solutions to the enormous challenges facing our society,” Rechtenwald told a meeting of lawmakers and guests on Wednesday, including Aikaw’s brother Clyde.
His speech focused on the judiciary’s accomplishments in the past year, including allowing court filings to be submitted electronically 24/7 and live-streaming and archiving all state Supreme Court oral hearings.
He also thanked lawmakers for their support of projects like Hale Kalele, a $91 million affordable housing project on Piikoi Street that also offers social services and a shelter for juveniles, as well as a new project. A $48 million civic center in Wahiawawhich will include the new county court building.
But he said more still needs to be done. In particular, Rechtenwald says the state needs more treatment beds and access to crisis intervention centers to provide care for those with mental health issues.
“My sense is that we still have a long way to go, but the areas where we reached agreement should be the focus,” Rechtenwald said in a phone interview following his speech.
While treatment beds and crisis centers are run by agencies like the state health department and not the judiciary, Rechtenwald said he believes it’s important to advocate for programs that can keep people out of the criminal justice system.
The judiciary is playing a role, with specialized treatment courts working with providers to keep defendants out of jail and running out of other services from the state court system.
Recktenwald highlighted a monitoring program for women that allows them to keep their children while they participate in the court system’s diversion programmes. The judiciary is asking for $200,000 to continue the program.
Associated with Women’s Court Pilot Program, created by the legislature last year to remove women, especially mothers, from the traditional court system. About 20 women will participate in the initial pilot program this year, according to Implementation report.
Recktenwald also asked lawmakers to return money to the budget for 30 jobs that were defunded during the pandemic. Among them, he said, were a number of judge positions that were vacant at the time their funding was revoked, in addition to other employees and monitoring officers.
“We have the capacity to absorb this in the short term but it does affect our ability to deliver services,” Rechtenwald said.
The cost to fund these jobs again is about $2.3 million. It’s possible the judiciary will get some of these jobs funded again, said Senate Judiciary Chair Carl Rhodes.
“Their requests are not that big in the broad scheme of things, and there is no question that the court system is totally screwed up,” Rhodes said.
The judiciary is also asking $360,000 for a new Oahu District Court judge and staff to help reduce caseloads in the Waianae, Pearl City, Wahiawa and Kaneohe courts. Currently, the courts are staffed by judges on a rotational basis.
One of the other points Rechtenwald made during his speech was the diversity of the judiciary. Women now account for 49% of full-time judges in the state, up from about 45% two years ago, when the Senate voted to reject an Intermediate Court of Appeals nominee in part because of calls for a Greater variety on the bench.
The composition of the state supreme court is also expected to change drastically in the next several years. Associate Justices Paula Nakayama and Michael Wilson will retire, opening the way for Governor Josh Green to appoint their replacements.
And in 2025, Rechtenwald will also reach the mandatory retirement age, Giving Green another chance to pick a court As well as choosing who will be the next Chief Justice.