Through successive Polynesian migrations, Western contact and subsequent immigration, the concept of justice has undergone a transformation in Hawaii. The Judiciary History Center, through its exhibitions, research, and educational programs, explores this transformation. How has a legal system combining both Hawaiian and western cultural values developed? Where does our unique legal system place us in today’s world?
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.
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.
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.