The statue of King Kamehameha I received a lot of attention last week, draped in lei as part of the annual celebration. But the building behind the statue of the king is just as significant for Hawaii history. Called Aliiloani Hale, the Judiciary Building is the home of Hawaii’s Supreme Court and the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center.

The building was originally designed as a palace. One report says that King Kamehameha V decided that the islands needed a government building more than they needed a royal residence. Another report says cost overruns prompted the deletion of the planned palace addition. Either way, this building has always been used for judicial purposes. The cornerstone was laid by King Kamehameha V in a Masonic ceremony in 1872. The king died before the building was finished, as did his successor, King Lunalilo.

Aliolani Hale formally opened on April 30, 1874 during the reign of King Kalakua. It is older than the building it faces, Iolani Palace, which was built in 1882. The kingdom’s first museum opened on the ground floor shortly after. The famous statue in front of the building was added in 1883. In 1892, Kalakua’s sister and successor, Queen Lilioukalani, opened the kingdom’s last legislative session in the building.

Although Hawaii is no longer ruled by royalty, other parts of the building history remain the same. The statue of King Kamehameha I still stands in front, draped with lei each June 11. The building is still dedicated to the public and houses the judiciary. And there is a museum on the ground floor.

The King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center is open weekdays from 8-4 pm. It is free, although donations are encouraged. Exhibits tell the story of 1,000 years of judicial history from the kapu system of ancient Hawaii to present day laws and courts. The center exists to help people understand Hawaii’s unique legal history and the judicial process. Thousands of people visit each year, including many school children.

The building and the judicial history center are very convenient to visit. I enjoyed the posters and photographs of early Hawaii. They are easy to understand and very informative for anyone with an interest in history or law. I personally enjoyed the role played by several prominent women in Hawaii legal history. As they say, behind every successful man…..

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