Updated: November 30, 2023
The US Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers donated $75,000 to the Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi for wildfire disaster legal assistance.
“The tragic events that destroyed Lahaina and ravaged Upcountry Maui continue to reverberate throughout Hawaiʻi and beyond. Many who lost loved ones, homes, businesses, and priceless possessions, will never fully recover. Nevertheless, there are many people working tirelessly to assist in the long and difficult journey back from this catastrophe,” according to the announcement.
Representatives with the American College of Trial Lawyers said attorneys will play a prominent role in this recovery, and access to justice for many victims of the fires will require access to an attorney.
“The dedicated lawyers working with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi – Hawaiʻi’s oldest and largest nonprofit, public interest law firm – will provide zero-fee disaster legal aid to the most vulnerable in our society,” according to a news release.
“ACTL’s partnership with Legal Aid is critical to supporting residents whose lives have been upended by the devastating wildfires on Maui, and enhances our ability to provide direct legal services, education, training, and outreach,” said David Kauila Kopper, Executive Director of Legal Aid Hawaiʻi. “The generosity of the Foundation’s donation to LASH will assist us in serving a clear public need — that those affected by the Maui wildfire disaster may begin to regain some control over their lives through the civil legal assistance and education provided. As individuals are able to rebuild their lives, the communities and economy of Maui will also begin to flourish again.”
LASH staff have been involved in the recovery effort from the start, providing disaster-related training and education at local resource fairs; staffing the Disaster Resource Centers along with other agencies; participating in weekly calls to coordinate governmental and non-governmental people and resources; disseminating information through their website and social media accounts; and, directly serving Maui residents with their immediate needs.
In the first two months following the fires, LASH opened more than 40 disaster-related cases. During this first phase of the recovery, most immediate needs have centered around document replacement (vital documents, immigration documents) and housing issues.
“As the recovery matures beyond the emergency phase, housing issues will persist and intensify, and residents are likely to require assistance with legal needs related to income, healthcare, domestic violence, and consumer issues such as debt and identify theft,” according to the announcement.
“The Foundation is honored to provide a $75,000 grant to support LASH in their vital mission to assist Maui wildfire victims, an effort that is expected to last several years and to cost well over $1M in total,” said David Hensler, President of the US Foundation. “The Foundation is committed to providing access to justice to those who need it most and is deeply gratified to have quickly provided crucial assistance to the residents and businesses of Maui.”
In addition to the US Foundation, many Fellows of the College, from both Hawaiʻi and the continent, have made individual donations to various organizations responding to the wildfires. These donations will help support those directly involved in recovery efforts, especially including the Legal Aid attorneys working to provide legal representation to those who otherwise might lack access to justice.