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Natalia Vilcu-Bajurean shares her impressions from Hawaii

October, 23 2012

On October 10-11th we had the opportunity to meet all the participants from other 6 LFP countries (Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey) because we met virtually only on a special Fall LFP 2012 profile on Facebook. We had an amazing intercultural exchange, we learned about the American legislative system, election system, challenges United States faces due to elections and had a comprehensive overview of the US Library of Congress.

 

On October 12 my fellow colleagues from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and I took the plane to Honolulu, our worksite for the next 3 weeks. My host family are doing their best to make me feel comfortable. They are great cooks and I am planning to cook a traditional Moldovan dinner for them at the weekend. 

My LFP internship started on October 15th at the Department of the Attorney General http://hawaii.gov/ag/. My supervisor, Rodney Tam, deputy Attorney General, divided my internship into three stages, one per week. My first week was in the Criminal Justice Division http://hawaii.gov/ag/criminal_justice/ , which is responsible for performing all prosecutorial functions on behalf of the state, such as welfare fraud, tax fraud, unemployment fraud, unauthorized practice of law, and public corruption. During my five days within this division I had the opportunity to meet attorneys that deal with issues and cases where the state is envolved. I took an active part in their daily activity, and all of my new collegues had enough patience to explain me what I was interested in. We discussed about the judicial and law enforcement systems in our countries, I shared with my American colleagues about Moldova's achievements and strategies in the area. I also went to the Circuit court where I met judges and I had the opportunity toattaned several trials. I met heads of all major units in the Criminal Justice devision, like the Asset Forfeiture Unit, Drug Nuisance Abatement, legislative division, etc. shared with them the experience in Moldova, and learned quite a lot of things about the Attorneys' duties.

In my free time I go sightseeing,meet my fellow collegues and, of course, the beaches in Hawaii.

 

The second week of my internship started on October 22 at Land and Transportation Division Department of the Attorney General. My supervisor for this week, Donna H. Kalama, Deputy Attorney General Supervising LTD, made a brief introduction on how the division works, and pointed out that the main tasks of the division are: to provide assistance to the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation (which are part of the executive branch in Hawaii); to deal with cases when the state is involved in issues related to public property (accidents in natural parks, tourists access on indigenous territories, building of roads and highways, maintenance of airports and harbors, etc.), to draft legislation in the field of land property, road building, etc.

At the same time, she explained the legislative process within the division and asked me to study a draft bill amending Hawaii Revised Statutes (main legislation in Hawaii covering all the fields), section related to environmental analysis. The following day I participated in the meeting where this draft bill was examined, and I had the chance to express my opinion about it. The members of the working group discussed the bill drafted by LTD to amend the law on Historic preservation, allowing phased review of the projects that are initiated by the Department of transportation. They argued on the purpose and recommended further steps to be taken, discussed the possibility to find supporters for the bill in the House and in the Senate, as well as strategic planning for future actions.

As my professional activity home has very small tangency with the activity of the LTD, Donna introduced me to one of her friends and I had the opportunity to participate at the annual meeting of Hawaii Justice Foundation www.hawaiijustice.org, a non-profit organization gathering judges, attorneys, notaries, mediators of Hawaii, supporting Hawaii Access to Justice Commission which aims to increase access to justice in civil legal matters for low- and moderate-income residents of Hawaii. I met the President of the HJF and had the opportunity to speak about Moldova legal aid system. The same day we attended the early voting procedure in the City Hall of Honolulu and had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Masie Hirono, one of the candidates for the US Senate. We discussed about LFP, presented the countries we come from and took a memorable picture.

On October 25 we had a guided tour around State Capitol of Hawaii, Hawaii Governor's Office and Lieutenant Governor's Office. We found out many interesting facts from Hawaiian history, learned about present day issues that are important for Hawaiian political and social life. In the afternoon I had a meeting with the Attorney general of Hawaii Mr. David M.Louie, and participated in working meeting in his office to discuss issues related to the activity of the Department and some strategic perspectives in concrete cases involving the State of Hawaii.


On October 26 I participated in the Land and Natural Resources  boardmeeting, a body dealing with all issues that involve the State as a land owner, whose activity is subject to the "Sunshine Law", a legal act guaranteeing openness and transparency of state boards, committees, commissions. I observed the manner in which the Board takes all decisions, and also was witness to the process of presenting testimonies by all people interested in the issue under discussions. In the afternoon my colleagues from LTD prepared a surprise for me - some sweets and cakes, as a farewell party. I spoke about Moldova, about traditions in our country, about food and people who live there.


The weekend was dedicated to travels round the Oahu Island, one of the eight major islands of Hawaii, the island were Honolulu is located. I saw many very beautiful places, and since that day the north winds were blowing, we saw huge waves. Saturday evening was not as pleasant as we intended it to be, as there was a tsunami warning for Hawaii, and the performance at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Hawaiian dance and traditions we were watching had to be cancelled. All people were rushing to get safe places on highlands, and the roads were very crowded. The warning was very serious and scaring, but it turned out to be no serious consequences. The next day was dedicated to hiking to waterfalls and going to the beach.

The third week of my internship started on October 29 at Civil rights litigation division and Tort litigation Division and supervisor for the week is Caron Inagaki, supervising Deputy Attorney General. The division's main responsibilities are to represent and defend state agencies and officials when the State or its agencies or officials sue or are sued. Civil suits are regularly brought on behalf of the State and its agencies and officials to collect delinquent loans, accounts, and overdue fines and fees, to recover salary and program overpayments, to enforce contracts and liens, and to recover damages for losses suffered as a result of other people's acts. We also bring civil actions to enforce or stop violations of anti-trust, tax, licensing, environmental and other regulatory laws. The same day I went to the First Circuit Court of Hawaii to assist the hearings on a case in which the State of Hawaii appeared as defendant.

On October 30 -31 I went to the First Circuit Court of Hawaii with Mr. Kendall J. Moser, Deputy Attorney General, and assisted at hearings on Raymond Steed v. Department of Public Safety case to Compel and For Sanctions. I also visited United States District Court for the District of Hawaii to assist pretrial settlement on a case v. Department of Public Safety.

On October 31 I had a meeting with Keith W. Hunter, President of Dispute Prevention & Resolution, Inc. (DPR) www.dprhawaii.com, and we had a discussion about mediation as a process of alternative dispute resolution, the system of mediation in Hawaii, Rules and acts regulating mediation etc. We settled a meeting at Pacific Mediation center to see how mediation works when it is sponsored from the state budget.

On November 1 a group of Deputy Attorneys General, including me, attended the Oral Arguments on the case Stacey Costales v. Scott Rosette and state of Hawaii held at the Supreme Court of Justice of Hawaii. This kind of hearings are quite rare, so I was lucky to be there and see the procedure in the Supreme Court. In the afternoon all LFP fellows met Neil A. Abercrombie Governor of Hawaii, the staff of the office. We had discussions about LFP, presentations of countries where we come from, discussions about multiculturalism and multinationalism of Hawaii, relations among people living in Hawaii, Aloha Spirit of Hawaii.

On November 2, the last day of my internship, all LFP fellows had a meeting with the Supreme Justice of Hawaii, honorable judge Mark Recktenwald. We discussed the legal system in United States in general, and in Hawaii in particular, protection on civil rights, relation between the state and religious groups, legislative system and budgetary matters. We shared our impressions on the Legislative Fellows Program and discussed the opportunities of future collaboration.


Natalia Vilcu-Bajurean


 

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