Sooner or later, many of the survivors of the Maui fires will need legal information. Joseph E. Cardoza will be there to lend a hand.

Cardoza (’72 Poli. Sci.), a retired circuit court judge, chairs Hawaii’s Access to Justice Commission. The commission helps connect people with low and moderate incomes to legal resources.

Maui Chief Judge Joe Cardoza
Maui Chief Judge Joe Cardoza (retired)
(Courtesy Hawaii State Judiciary)

“We’re already getting inquiries about landlord-tenant issues and debt collection. People still have bills even though they might not have jobs,” he says. “And there’s the unfortunate reality of the need to declare persons who aren’t found deceased and set up guardianships for the children left behind.”

Cardoza, who was born and raised in Maui, works for the commission in a volunteer capacity. In the aftermath of the fires, he also expects the commission to handle requests for help finding legal assistance related to foreclosures, immigration, Native Hawaiian issues, and mental health counseling.

“After disasters of this nature, folks begin to deal with serious emotional issues,” he says. “If it’s not dealt with, it can lead to tragic consequences.”

With his deep Maui connections, Cardoza also helped families locate their loved ones after the fires. As he got information about survivors, he relayed it to the county government, which maintains a missing persons list.

A resident of central Maui, Cardoza wasn’t directly affected by the fires, but members of his family were. His son, Joseph Cardoza II (‘20 Econ., ’23 MA Agri.) fought fast-moving brush fires on the corporate farm where he works.


Another relative and WSU alumnus, Dalton Fukagawa (’16 Hosp. Busi Mgmt.) fled his Lahaina home with two changes of clothes and a cherished Philadelphia Eagles jersey. He’s staying at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa, where he is the manager of housekeeping services.

Instead of tourists, the Westin is packed with workers from the Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Guard. Other hotel employees who lost their homes also are staying there with their families.

“We’ve been told we could reopen for guests in mid-October,” Fukagawa says, “but at this point, nothing is certain.”


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Valerye Huff Zimmerman (’10 Comm.) and her husband lost their condo to the Lahaina fire and now they get food to relief workers.

Hawaii state Sen. Tim Richards (‘84 DVM) is helping coordinate relief efforts, including deliveries of insulin and diapers to the burned areas.

Hawaii wildfires: Former WSU football player Hercules Mata’afa recounts helping parents escape before family home burned (The Athletic, August 14, 2023)


How to help Maui

Credible relief organizations accepting donations to help those affected by the wildfires, including pets

Aloha United Way

Hawaii Community Foundation‘s “Maui Strong” fund

American Red Cross of Hawaii


Feeding America

Maui Food Bank

World Central Kitchen

Maui Humane Society