Our Purpose

The King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center (the Center) is an administrative program of the Hawaii State Judiciary and a permanent educational institution created to inform and provide learning opportunities about the judicial process and Hawaii’s legal history from pre-contact to present. The Center receives financial support from the Friends of the Judiciary History Center of Hawaii, a non-profit attached to the Center.

Our History

The origins of the Center date back to the 1970's and the recommendations of a citizens committee advising Chief Justice William Richardson on the renovation of Aliiolani Hale. The original idea was to develop an educational facility that would help citizens understand today's system of law by examining Hawaiian concepts of law and the development of Hawaii's judiciary. Given Aliiolani Hale's historic significance, the Center occupies a highly visible and ideal location in Honolulu's Capitol District.

Grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Judiciary-funded extensive research on Hawaii's court records. This research uncovered information used for the planning and development of the Center's permanent exhibits. Additional funding was provided by appropriations from the Hawaii State Legislature and contributions from the Friends of the Judiciary History Center.

A formal dedication and opening ceremonies for the Center were held on September 12, 1989, with a message from Governor John Waihee, and a blessing by Reverend Abraham Akaka.

Since the Center opened in 1989, a growing body of scholarship has emerged and continues to expand, revealing previously untold elements of Hawaii's legal history, including an array of indigenous and non-western immigrant voices. As more is revealed about the past, the Center will strive to improve the experience of current and future visitors and continue to serve as a bridge between the Judiciary and the community.

Our Hours

The general public is welcome to visit the Center, located on the first floor of Aliiolani Hale, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (excluding holidays). Admission is FREE. Visits by school and community groups with reservations are welcome during weekdays.

Annual Reports

Here are our most recent annual reports:

What We Do

Group Tours
Our group tours are designed to be age appropriate and particularly helpful in meeting Hawaii Department of Education benchmark standards for students in grades 2-12. The tours cover civics and law-related topics relevant to Hawaii's past, present, and future. The Center also conducts tours of the First Circuit Courthouse for high school students and adults. Most of our tours allow for student participation in mock trials.


Teacher Workshops
The Judiciary History Center partners with local and national organizations like the Center for Civic Education, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, Street Law, the Hawaii Department of Education, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the U.S. District Court – District of Hawaii, and the Hawaii Council for the Humanities to provide teachers with several opportunities per year to engage in professional development.


Public Programs
The public programs of the Center focus on the historical, social, and legal traditions of Hawaii. Presentations made through lectures, panel discussions, film, and theatrical performances deal with topics and themes of the past that have relevance to current events and the future direction of the state and nation. Thought provoking and educational, our programs are free to the public.


Speakers Bureau
The Hawaii State Judiciary created a Speakers Bureau to educate the community about the judicial system. The bureau will find a speaker to present thought-provoking and important information appropriate to your audience. The Speakers Bureau can assist most civic groups, social organizations, professional associations, schools, law enforcement agencies and more. Keep in mind that judicial ethics prevent judges from addressing special interest groups or speaking about pending cases. Also keep in mind that out speakers accept requests as their other commitments allow.
Courts in the Community
The Courts in the Community program offers public and private high school students from around the state an opportunity to better understand the function of the Judicial Branch of government and observe an actual oral argument. Each semester, students from a designated island work with volunteer attorneys and students from the William S. Richardson School of Law to prepare to participate in a moot court activity before attending a Supreme Court hearing and meeting with the attorneys and the justices immediately following the argument.
Translations & Research
The Center, in partnership with the William S. Richardson School of Law, is working on compiling and vetting more than 4000 words for an upcoming legal dictionary. The dictionary project is an off shoot of the translation of court documents undertaken by the Center many years ago. When completed, the dictionary will be available in print and digital formats. In addition, an analysis of over 20,000 cases in the State Archives has resulted in a database of 19th century judges and lawyers of the Monarchy period has been produced. New information is incorporated as it becomes available.
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