Top Hawai‘i Barristers Want Justice for All
By Lynn Cook
TWO OF HONOLULU’S LEADING ATTORNEYS, Ian Mattoch and Stan Levin, can easily be described as modern-day gladiators. In and out of the courtroom, each man charges into battle, fronted by hope and the law, backed by the desire to aid those less able to fight.
Early in life Ian Mattoch learned that a disability could translate into an edge to help.
After contracting polio in California as a youth, Mattoch moved back to the Windward side of O’ahu where he attended Punahou School, followed by Occidental College and Northwestern University Law School before returning to Honolulu as a lawyer and teacher at Punahou. For 22 years he taught “Law in Society” and “Theory of Social Justice” to eager youngsters-including Barack Obama.
As the Law Offices of Ian Mattoch grew to a staff of more than 20 people, so did Mattoch’s desire to extend services beyond representation to his clients. He created a Continuing Commitment Program after one case that proved to be his “a-ha moment.”
“The client we were representing had to go to a Mainland facility,” Mattoch shares, adding that an air ambulance cost (of $30,000), and other expenses more than broke his client. On faith, he signed off on the contract and “believed that somehow it would all work out.” It did.
“Risk is now routine for our team,” Mattoch says. In the name of that team his law firm donates more than $100,000 a year to a variety of charitable organizations and causes in the islands. “We do more than represent our clients. We stay with them and find ways to sustain a successful outcome.”
After many years on the board of directors, Mattoch is a third term president of the Brain Injury Association of Hawaii. In this capacity he has enlisted the Hawai’i Department of Health to create the first ever Brain Injury Clubhouse, modeled after a California program. He describes a client, injured at age 16, now 26, needing a place to play chess and to mentor other brain injury survivors. Mattoch says, matter-of-factly, “We needed to make that happen.”
Although Stan Levin, of Davis Levin Livingston, is an integral part of a winning legal team that specializes in personal injury cases, his personal passion is the Levin Education Access Project (LEAP). He created the organization on the principle that all children have the right to reach their full potential. Through his legal experience and vision he understands that parents face a daunting task to understand the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
“The only proven way to realize that promise,” he says, “is through appropriate education.”
A constant proponent for the underdog, Levin lost his father at age 14, graduated high school at 16, made Phi Beta Kappa at college at 20, was drafted to Vietnam, taught fourth grade in Harlem and went to law school at night. Immediately after NYU, Levin secured a year-long clerkship with Judge Masaji Marumoto at the Hawai’i Supreme Court. He settled into the Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i, eventually launching his own firm.
Levin’s biggest challenge came with his early onset of Parkinson’s disease at age 31. As his mobility and communication is compromised, Levin finds new assistive technology to meet the challenge. He cites his greatest victory to date as securing concession stores in all federal facilities for Hawaii’s Blind Vendor Ohana, followed by a victory in leading the City and County of Honolulu to install several thousand curb cuts on sidewalks to allow access by persons in wheelchairs and on scooters. About LEAP and life, he says, “in short, it is all about doing the right thing-the thing that is pono.”