Koko and I watched the full moon rise from the cradle of the Sleeping Giant’s body last night, and then disappear behind a mass of blue-gray clouds this morning. The rain fell hard and heavy sometime after midnight, and returned again just after dawn, sparing me the need to water the taro patch for yet another day.
Unfortunately, since the construction of the centralized judiciary building in Lihue, citizens who live on the north and west sides of the island have not been spared the need to drive all the way into town when they have matters before court.
Although I love their use of native plants in the landscaping, I’ve never been a fan of the large, imposing buildings — aka Babylon — that house the police and courts. The complex seemed wildly out of place on Kauai.
As a friend who was born and raised in Hanalei observed when he first saw Babylon:
“Whoever thought we needed something like that? I thought I was in Kapolei.”
That very same friend called me the other day and said, “Now there’s a good reason to open the Hanalei courthouse back up again: the price of gas.”
It seems he’d just had a visit from a friend who was called as a witness in a court case. Three times he and another guy, both of whom live in Wainiha, had made the trip down to Lihue to testify, only to have the case postponed. And since they don’t have much in the way of disposable income, they were extremely fret about the money they’d wasted on gas.
That got them talking about all the guys who have court dates. What if their cars broke down on the way? Would they be held in contempt of court?
That’s not such a wild scenario, considering that many of the people going through the court system don’t have much money, which often translates into old, unreliable vehicles, or no transportation at all.
I did a quick check of the bus schedule, and since you have to get a transfer once you get into Lihue, you can’t even get to the courthouse by 8 a.m. from Hanalei.
It seems that by requiring everyone to schlep into Lihue for court business, no matter how manini, the government is unduly increasing the costs incurred by citizens who live in outlying areas. Further, it’s putting them in greater jeopardy of missing court dates, which pushes them deeper into the spin of the judicial system — a place that’s largely foreign to all but the rarified few who work in it.
“It looks like the scales of justice are kind of tilted in their favor,” my friend observed.
As Gov. Lingle, who was on Kauai the other day, noted with her usual acuity: “The impact (of rising oil prices) on us is greater than anywhere else in America.”
And those impacts are even greater for the poorest among us, who are disproportionately represented in the court system. Maybe it’s time for the judiciary to reconsider having everyone journey to Babylon, and go back to sending court officials out to Koloa and Hanalei instead.
“Let’s be fair, let’s be smart,” my friend said. “Hey, we’ll even give you guys credit for this idea.”