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January 19, 2007

Judiciary accepts bids on new courthouse as lawyers protest


Controversy over moving family court to Kapolei isn't slowing the Hawaii Judiciary's efforts to break ground on the $131 million project in the coming months.

It has started accepting bids for a project that more than 100 lawyers have signed a petition against.

The ambitious project calls for moving everything from divorce matters to child-custody battles from Honolulu to Kapolei.

Those bids from contractors will be opened Feb. 15, said Walter M. Ozawa, deputy administrative director for the Hawaii Judiciary.

Then a contract will be awarded by the end of June for the project expected to be completed in 2010.

"We're fully committed to it and are moving ahead," Ozawa said.

The project is aimed at easing overcrowding at the Judiciary's Punchbowl Street complex by moving family court to an 11-acre site in Kapolei, near the Outback Steakhouse restaurant.

Plans call for building a 120,000-square-foot court building and a 70,000-square-foot juvenile detention center.  

Features of the courthouse include 13 courtrooms for family court and the Waianae District Court. The complex is expected to serve more than 4,000 people weekly and bring about 350 jobs to Kapolei.

But some family court lawyers remain opposed to the plans. They continue to dread the likelihood of an extra 30-minute commute from Honolulu to Kapolei, saying that it doesn't make sense to relocate the entire family court. 

"What we're saying is, don't put it all out there," said Adrienne S. King, chairwoman of the family law section of the Hawaii State Bar Association.

King has gathered about 130 protest signatures from family court lawyers who agree with her and has submitted them to state legislators.

"I'm being called a troublemaker," King said. "But I think there's a lot of trouble that needs to be made."

Ronald T.Y. Moon, chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, has previously acknowledged all of the anxiety over longer travel time to Kapolei, calling it amusing that some lawyers would consider a 30-minute drive to Kapolei a hardship.

He is betting that travel time and traffic congestion actually could be reduced because of teleconferencing and other technology now used by the courts in certain proceedings to accommodate lawyers and their clients.

At the same time, he suggested that concerns about the planned move don't outweigh the critical need for more courtroom space. For example, some judges are sharing courtrooms.

Moon summed up his feelings on the controversy over the project this way: "We must not let shortsightedness get in the way of moving forward to meet the future as we are in Kapolei."

hnedd@bizjournals.com I 955-8039


2006 American City Business Journals, Inc. and its licensors.  All rights reserved.




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