Former Hawaii State Supreme Court Chief Justice Richardson dies

Former Hawaii State Supreme Court Chief Justice Richardson dies
William Richardson
William Richardson
Bill Richardson
Bill Richardson
James S. Burns
James S. Burns

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A longtime leader is gone. William S. Richardson died Monday at the age of 90.

But his legacy lives on at the state's only law school, named in his honor and in landmark rulings, sensitive to Hawaiian culture.

Richardson had a stroke in April and has been frail ever since. His family had been caring for him at home. He died peacefully in a Honolulu hospital.

Richardson or C.J., which stood for chief justice, celebrated his 90th and final birthday in December at the UH law school named in his honor. 900 people attended the event.

"He was an amazing resource was also truly beloved and gave the whole place a feeling of ohana," William S. Richardson School of Law dean Avi Soifer said.

He also influenced many, including some of Hawaii's top judges.

"He was actually the reason I became a judge, yes, he convinced me, I resisted, but he said, no you must and so I did," Retired chief judge of the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals James S. Burns said.

Richardson himself, almost never made it to the bench.

After graduating from Roosevelt High, then UH, he got a job at an oil company on Oahu and figured that was it.

Until, his UH professor convinced his father to send him to law school.

"He said, if you really got to go, I'll rent your room out and you go on to college," Richardson said in an earlier interview.

Off to the Mainland, Richardson got his law degree from the University of Cincinnati and then served in the Army.

He eventually came home to become chairman of the Democratic Party, where he pushed for statehood. Next he became lieutenant governor and then chief justice.

In his 16 years leading the State Supreme Court, he made landmark rulings assuring public beach access and affirming public ownership of water and other natural resources, always sensitive to Hawaii's unique way of life..

"Why should we follow Anglo American common law, when we have our own traditions here and he used those traditions for the sake of justice and he did that for all the people, he loved Hawaiians, he also loved Hawaii," Soifer said.

He loved his family.

"When school ended, I could always count on him ready to pick me up, he'd come and watch my practices as much as he could," His son Bill Richardson said.

And he always made time.

"I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with him last summer, driving him around, taking him where ever he needed to go," His grandson William Richardson said.

And long after he left the bench, he still shared his wealth of knowledge.

"He loved coming down to the law school and sitting here and meeting students because his life was students and he always made time to be involved," His son Bill Richardson said.

Richardson's passing has triggered remembrances from the Governor, Honolulu Mayor and Kamehameha Schools, among others.

Richardson's body will lie in state at the law school on July 8 from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The funeral service will be on July 9 at St. Andrews Cathedral. Visitation will be from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and the service will begin at 11:30 a.m. A private burial will be held at Punchbowl Cemetery.

Governor Lingle has directed that all state flags be flown at half-staff on July 9.

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Hawaii's political leaders remember 'CJ' Richardson

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