HSJ News Release: 2021 Jurists of the Year and Judiciary employees honored

Posted on Nov 1, 2021 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

HONOLULU – Second Circuit Chief Judge Richard T. Bissen, Jr. and First Circuit Court Judge Paul B.K. Wong received the 2021 Jurist of the Year Award on October 29 from Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald.  The presentations were part of the annual employee Incentive Awards Ceremony, which recognizes Judiciary personnel for improvements to court operations or programs and outstanding contributions to public service.

“Our community has faced extraordinary challenges with the pandemic, and these two judges have not only continued to maintain exceptional judicial competence throughout, but they have gone above and beyond to ensure that the Judiciary continues to provide vital services to the public while ensuring the safety of court users, judges, and staff,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald. “Their calm approach and confident, can-do attitudes enabled us to forge a clear path forward as we responded to the pandemic. In doing so, they have both exhibited superb leadership skills, and are well deserving of this recognition.”

Judge Bissen had a distinguished career in public service before his appointment to the Second Circuit Court by Gov. Linda Lingle in 2005. He is a graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law and has served as Maui County Prosecuting Attorney, as First Deputy Attorney General, and as the Director of Public Safety. Click here to view his Jurist of the Year proclamation.

Judge Wong was sworn in as Judge of the District Court of the First Circuit in 2012. He was appointed by Gov. David Y. Ige to the First Circuit Court in 2017 and currently presides over criminal felony cases. Click here to view Judge Wong’s Jurist of the Year proclamation.

The Jurist of the Year is selected annually by the Chief Justice from nominations submitted by Hawaii attorneys and Judiciary personnel. The award recognizes a full-time trial judge who exhibits exceptional judicial competence, evidenced by decisional quality; significant extra-judicial contributions to the administration of justice; and active participation in public service to the community at large.

In addition to honoring the two Jurists of the Year, the Hawaii State Judiciary presented individual and group awards to employees who have distinguished themselves through exceptional service and accomplishments. The recipients of this year’s awards are:

Distinguished Service Award (the Judiciary’s top award):

  • Karen T. Takahashi, Special Projects Coordinator, Legislative Coordinating/Special Projects Office
  • Jasmine M. Mau Mukai, Statewide Director of the Children’s Justice Centers of Hawaii.

Meritorious Service Award:

  • Kari L. Yamashiro, Deputy Chief Court Administrator, Office of the Chief Court Administrator, Fifth Circuit.

Group Meritorious Service Award:   

  • Adult/Juvenile Community Service & Restitution Unit, Virtual Community Service Pilot Project Team, First Circuit 

Saifoloi Aganon, Raine Akutagawa, Jimi Coloma, Noah Eckart, Amanda King, Holly Lee, Jose Lim, Iris Nakama, Wenda Reeves, Sylvana Sam, Anita Tupouniua, Greg Uwono. 

  • Coronavirus Emergency Grants Management Team 

Terri Gearon, Financial Services Department; Ni Ho, Administrative Fiscal Office; Melody Kubo, Office of Equality and Access to the Courts; Tom Mick, Policy & Planning Department; Nancy Ralston, Office of the Administrative Director of the Courts; and Gary Teramae, Policy & Planning Department.

  • Division of Driver Education – Statewide 

Honolulu Office: Nickolas Alao, Lovely Ancheta, Kayleen Billimon, Yvette Cudal, Jason Dayuha, Erin Rose Ebia, Cheryl Knutson, Kathryn Nabeta, Allen Nakamura, Chris Nomura, Punahele Pires, Floridel Renon, Sarah Salas, Nathan Urabe, Adina Vallortigara, and Laurene Yonesaki 

Maui Office: Kimberly Awana, Kai Gibo, and Elicia Legsay

Hilo Office: Ryan Kajikawa and Kelly Waiau

Kona Office: Natalie Deisroth and Joseph Gusman

Kauai Office: Rey Agcaoili and Beth Marie Anderson

  • IT Team, Second Circuit 

Dean Ikioka, Austin Kozaki, and Vance Wakakuwa

Spirit of the Judiciary Award:  

  • Rene N. Hanavan, Court Bailiff II, Kona District Court, Third Circuit
  • Matthew K. Palafox, Social Worker V, Supervisor Juvenile Client Services Branch Juvenile Intake and Probation Section, First Circuit. 

Certificate of Commendation: 

  • Scott A. Yamada, Judicial Clerk IV, Legal Documents Branch 2 Honolulu District Court, First Circuit
  • Malia M. Ferreira, Court Administrator, Court & Operational Support Services Branch, Second Circuit.

Group Certificate of Commendation:

  • District Court Probation Office, First Circuit 

Unit 1: Bryson Chock, Paula Chu, Christopher Lam, Summer Ledesma, Susan Watanabe 

Unit 2: Jessica Arata, Bertram Jung, Aja Keyes, Rezetta Mulitalo, Robert Sanchez 

Clerical Unit: Lisa Castro, Eden Chong, Annabel Ramos, Clara Shea, Tokie Simeon, Hong Ri Zenker

  • Fiscal Staff, Administrative Services Division, Third Circuit 

Jill Asakura, Carmela Boteilho, Rena Dias Rubis Hazel Garcia, Susan Kohashi, Maile Lei Koyanagi, Ken Nagasako , Teresita Padamada, Laura Urubio 

Award for Suggestions 

  • John J. Hausler, Court Documents Clerk I, Court Operations Division, Legal Documents Branch 2 Hoʻokele Kapolei Service Center, First Circuit


ATTACHED PHOTO:  Second Circuit Chief Judge Richard T. Bissen, Jr. shares his thoughts after receiving the 2021 Jurist of the Year from Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald.  


ATTACHED PHOTO:  First Circuit Court Judge Paul B.K. Wong addresses attendees of the Hawaii State Judiciary’s Incentive Awards Ceremony after receiving the 2021 Jurist of the Year from Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald.




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