Recognizing Outstanding Public Service

Each year, HWLF presents the Rhoda Lewis Award, named after the first female member of the Hawaii Supreme Court, to a woman attorney who has devoted her career to public service. Recent awardees include:

  • 2015: Calleen Ching is currently the Managing Attorney at the Hawai`i Immigrant Justice Center at the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i, where she represents abused immigrants in immigration and relate civil legal issues, conducts community outreach and education in immigrant communities, trains service providers in immigration remedies and culturally-appropriate services for abuse victims, collaborates with government and non-profit community agencies to improve services to abused immigrants, and supervises the Public Benefits unit and the Homeless Project at LASH. For the Center, she previously also served as Senior Attorney, Project Director, and Acting Executive Director. Her many years of public service include serving as Corporation Counsel for the City and County of Honolulu’s Personnel Division, program director for AmeriCorps Students and Victims of Domestic Violence at the Volunteer Legal Services of Hawai`i, enforcement attorney at the Hawai`i Civil Rights Commission, supervising attorney for LASH’s Disability Rights Project, supervising and managing attorney for LASH where she represented indigent clients in State and Federal courts and acted as a statewide resource for the office, co-instructor at the Immigration Law Clinic at the William S. Richardson School of Law, per-diem judge for Family Court, chief attorney for the Hawai`i State Senate Judiciary, presenter at the ABA’s Equal Justice Conference, and presenter at several national conferences on ending violence against immigrant women, effective public policy, innovative legal outreach, outreach and services to limited-English-proficient communities, and international matchmaking and aused immigrants. She was a co-editor of the Hawai`i Women Lawyers’ groundbreaking book, Our Rights, Our Lives; received the “Spirit of Advocacy” award from the Chinese Family Violence Awareness Project, a part of the National Network to End Domestic Violence; and was recently recognized as the HSBA’s 2014 Champion of Justice. She continues to train statewide to help police officers, prosecutors, victim service providers, interpreters, and many others in such areas as immigration remedies, language access, and cultural accessibility.
  • 2014: Ronette M. Kawakami, a Leilehua High School graduate who studied at the University of Oregon at Eugene and University of Hawai`i at Manoa (UHM), received her J.D. from the William S. Richard School of Law in 1985. Even as an undergraduate, she worked with underprivileged students, served on the UHM Board of Publications (overseeing the University’s newspaper, Ka Leo o Hawai`i, and literary journal, Hawai`i Review).  She served as a Family Court bailiff, clerked with the Honorable Marie N, Milks, and served for more than 25 years as a Deputy Public Defender, appearing in 6 oral arguments before the Hawai`i Supreme Court. For the State Public Defenders Office, she has supervised the Appellate Division as well as the Felony Trials Division. She has appeared before the Senate and House Judiciary Committee and other committees as a legislative liaison providing testimony on issues relevant to criminal defense and the criminal justice system. She was HSBA Director/Secretary for 12 years and served on many committees. Her work in the community also includes work with anti-drug programs, panels on sentencing and racism, training for homeless legal clinics, training emergency medical technicians to deal with the mentally ill, training Hawai`i Parole Officers, speaking at the the Hawai`i Filipino Lawyers Association, distributing food to the homeless, and coaching or serving on local public and private school teams and boards. At the W.S. Richardson School of Law, she served as an Adjunct Professor of Law for more than 10 years,  prepared the Moot Court Counseling Team for National Competition twice, received the Adjunct Professor of the Year Award in 2003 and 2010, and is currently its Associate Dean for Student Services. She currently also serves on the Hawai`i Supreme Court Committee on Equality and Access to the Courts.
  • 2013: Jan Tamura holds a 1985 J.D. from the University of Hawai`i William S. Richardson School of Law as well as a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she later worked in its Women’s Studies program and Center for Research on Learning & Teaching. In Hawai`i, she worked with the Jail Overcrowding Project at the O`ahu Community Correctional Center, volunteered to instruct female detainees and inmates, served as Director at Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii (whose volunteer attorneys serve the low-income community), was a Volunteer Guardian Ad Litem for sexually abused teens, was a pro bono attorney and outreach advocate for survivors of domestic violence, was President of the Board of Directors for the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse & Legal Hotline, co-chaired the HSBA Committee on Gender and Other Fairness, chaired the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i Advisory Committee on its Hawai`i Immigrant Justice Center, volunteered with the Pacific Survivor Center (which assists victims of human trafficking and torture), among many other accomplishments. She’s a two-time recipient of the HSBA’s Young Lawyers Division’s Justice Award. In 2010, she established the Gender Equity Fellowship at the W.S. Richardson School of Law to financially support students who, through the University of Hawai`i’s Office of Gender Equity, advocate for victims of gender-based discrimination and violence.
  • 2012: Dina Shek, a 2006 graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai‘i, was awarded for her efforts in co-founding and operating the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children in Hawai‘i, which provides free legal assistance to Kalihi Valley residents served by Kokua Kalihi Valley, a community health center. The MLP is a new patient care model that aims to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable individuals, children and families by integrating legal assistance into the medical setting.