Former Chief Justice Ronald Moon, a legal pioneer in more ways than one, dies at 81

The country’s first Korean American Chief Justice, Hawaii’s Ronald Moon, died last night at age 81.
Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 5:56 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 5, 2022 at 6:11 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Hawaii Chief Justice Ronald Moon, who led the state’s highest court for more than 17 years and presided over a host of landmark decision, died Monday night at 81.

He was the first Korean-American in the country to hold the role, and his colleagues called him a legal pioneer.

“He started a lot of new programs that are with us still today like drug court, mental health court, and girls court, language access program, so folks who don’t have English as a first language are able to be heard and understood,” said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

Moon led the state Supreme Court through pivotal moments ― from same-sex marriage to Native Hawaiian rights.

“The first state Supreme Court to recognize marriage equality,” Recktenwald said.

“That was unheard of in our nation’s jurisprudence in 1993. And of course, that set the stage for 30 years of jurisprudence that followed, and ultimately the Supreme Court of the United States recognizing rights to marriage equality.”

Gov. David Ige says Moon served Hawaii with honor and distinction and that “he led by example and worked hard to instill trust in the state’s justice system.”

Kapolei’s courthouse was even renamed after Moon.

After his retirement in 2010, he often visited the Judiciary complex.

“Made it a point to become acquainted with everyone in the judiciary and he was a mentor for all of us,” said retired Maui Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza. “He was a tireless worker and innovative leader who looked for ways to better serve the public.”

Those closest to Moon called him “CJ.”

One of his favorite quotes was, “Public service is the rent one pays for occupying space on Earth.”

“It’s a sad day for me personally today. Sad day for our institution. But the legacy that he left will be something that will keep us going and that we can look to and remember him by in the years ahead,” said Recktenwald.

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