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Judiciary allows Hawaiian language interpreter in new policy

The Hawaii State Judiciary will allow the use of Hawaiian language interpreters in courtrooms when participants in legal proceedings “choose to express themselves through the Hawaiian language.”

The new policy was announced today, following a widely reported incident in which a Maui district judge issues a bench warrant for a defendant who chose to speak exclusively in Hawaiian in his courtroom.

Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo, an assistant professor in Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii Maui College, appeared in Maui District Court on Wednesday on a disorderly conduct charge stemming from his part in an August protest against construction of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Haleakala.

Kaeo opted to conduct his defense in Hawaiian, prompting Judge Blaine Kobayashi to issue a bench warrant on the grounds that the court was unable to determine whether the defendant, Kaeo, was present.

Kobayashi rescinded the warrant without explanation the following day.

In announcing the new policy yesterday, the Judiciary said it would develop implementation procedures and solicited public input.

Comments may be sent to pao@courts.hawaii.gov. Individuals who are interested in serving as a court interpreter may contact the Office on Equality and Access to the Courts at 539-4860 for further information.

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