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Chief Justice Ronald T.Y. Moon remembered as visionary leader, trailblazer

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Chief Justice Ronald T.Y. Moon

The Hawaiʻi judiciary today is grieving the loss of former Chief Justice Ronald Moon, who passed away yesterday evening at age 81.

“The judiciary has lost a legend.  Chief Justice Moon was a visionary leader and trailblazer in the legal profession.  But he never forgot his roots growing up in Wahiawa, and wanted every person to be treated fairly and with respect when they came into our courtrooms,” said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald in a statement.

“Under his leadership, the Supreme Court decided landmark cases ranging from same sex marriage, to protecting native Hawaiian rights and the environment.  He also worked tirelessly to make the judiciary more effective and accessible, and shaped us into the institution we are today,”  said Chief Justice Recktenwald. 

Chief Justice Moon served as Chief Justice for more than 17 years, before retiring in 2010. He was the first Korean American to become the chief justice of a state supreme court.  Before that, he served as a circuit court judge and then an associate justice of the supreme court, for a total of 28 years of service on the bench.   

“Chief Justice Moon frequently quoted his father as saying ‘Public service is the rent one pays for occupying the space here on earth.’  That sums up who CJ Moon was and what drove him to work so hard.  He put his heart and soul into the judiciary,”  Chief Justice Recktenwald said.  

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“I am heartbroken by CJ Moon’s passing.  He was an incredible role model, a friend and a mentor, and always supported me in any way possible.  He genuinely cared about every employee in the judiciary, and would stop to talk story and ask how they were doing, or share a joke,” Recktenwald said in a Judiciary press release.  “On behalf of the entire Hawaii judiciary ohana, I send our aloha and deepest sympathy to CJ’s wife Mariko and his children and grandchildren.”     

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Under Chief Justice Moon’s leadership, the judiciary reportedly started many innovative programs which continue to this day, including drug court, mental health court, and girls court programs, and a certification program for court interpreters.  

Chief Justice Moon also worked effectively with the legislature, which provided funding for four new courthouses during his tenure.  The last one, the family court complex in Kapolei, was opened in 2010 and bears his name.  He received numerous awards and recognitions, including the National Center for State Courts’ Harry L. Carrico Award for Judicial Innovation, the Hawaiʻi State Bar Association’s Golden Gavel Award, and the American Judicature Society’s Herbert Harley Award. 

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