Courthouse Funding on Hawai‘i Island

Jan 26, 2017

Hilo Federal Building
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Two years ago, the State Legislature appropriated $90 million dollars to build a new judiciary building in Kona.  Now, Hawai‘i State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald is asking for more funding. He spoke with HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken, who has this report.

Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald says it’s taken a long time to bring a new judiciary building to the west side of Hawai‘i Island.

Chief Justice:  “It’s been 20 to 30 years people have been talking about getting a new courthouse here in Kona.  We got the funding to construct the courthouse, $90 million dollars.   We broke ground in October, we’re on track to complete construction in the spring of 2019 .   And at that point we’re going to need to outfit the building. Right now we’re in three different buildings not designed to be courthouses. There are operational and security issues.”

And the locations can be confusing for the public. Family Court is around 5 miles south of Kailua Village in an office building.  Nine miles further south is Circuit and District Court in a former hospital, built in 1941.   And circuit and drug court, in a former feed store, is a couple of miles makai of that.  That building is only partially secured.   Early one morning, somebody actually set fire to the outside door to a circuit court judge’s chambers—with the judge and his clerk inside. Crime victims, witnesses, and perpetrators are often almost side-by-side. 

Chief Justice Recktenwald said he’s grateful for support from the legislature, and needs support again.

CJ:   “This year, we’re going to ask for the funding to enable us to purchase the furniture, partitions, desks and all the equipment.   We’re expecting it will be about $7 million dollars.”

Recktenwald says the funding will be used to fully outfit the new three-story facility’s 5 courtrooms, law library, holding cells, witness rooms, and more.