University of Hawaii Law School Mourns Loss of Cherished Professor Van Dyke

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HONOLULU, HAWAII – University of Hawaii Professor of Law Jon Van Dyke passed away in his sleep last night while at a conference in Australia. The Carlsmith Ball Faculty Scholar, who was awarded a Regents’ Medalist for Excellence in Research and the Presidential Citation for Excellence in Teaching, was well known in both the education and political communities. He and his wife, attorney Sherry Broder, advocated on behalf of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for the passage of the Akaka Bill and other native Hawaiian programs. Their son, Jesse, is a spokesperson for U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka.

Professors at the William S. Richardson School of Law Community will hold a tribute for him this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. in his classroom and there will be another Evening Memorial beginning at 5:30 pm.


In an email to the law school community, the Dean of the law school, Avi Soifer, wrote that “Jon was admired, loved, and vitally important throughout a remarkable number of different circles of people stretching far beyond our Law School, but we were particularly and truly blessed to have the direct benefit of his many years of inspirational teaching and scholarship, remarkable public service, and deep and abiding friendship. There is and will be no other like him.”

He added: “Like so many others, I find it virtually impossible to think about the Law School and our community without picturing Jon working away and bringing his extraordinary array of different skills to bear on all kinds of genuinely important projects and commitments. Jon Van Dyke will certainly not be forgotten, but he will be hugely missed.”

Gov. Neil Abercrombie also issued a statement today: “Jon’s passing is a lesson in treasuring every moment with those you love and admire. His loss will be deeply felt. I first met Jon in the 70s at the time of the Constitutional Convention. He was one of our advisors on the establishment of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. It was then that we became friends. Jon was an invaluable resource. His intellect brimmed over with energy and brilliance. He was a patient, calming influence in every instance of tension and conflict. Jon was endlessly courteous, no matter how trying the circumstance and equally resolute to his commitment to the public good. He was a warm and caring individual – true to his friends and true to himself – and always, always for Hawaii. My sincerest condolences go out to his family. His legions of friends grieve with them.”

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono added: “We cannot reflect on the state of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders’ rights without finding Jon at its heart. His passion, depth of knowledge, and dedicated advocacy is an example of Hawaii at its finest. I will always be grateful for his friendship and can never forget his service to our community. My thoughts and sincere sympathy are with Sherry, Jesse, Eric, and Michelle.”

According to his biography, Professor Van Dyke, who was educated at Yale and Harvard, joined the UH faculty in 1976, teaching Constitutional Law, International Law, International Ocean Law, and International Human Rights. He also taught at the Hastings College of Law, University of California, San Francisco (1971-76), and at the Catholic University Law School, Washington, D.C (1967-69).

He also authored 6 books – North Vietnam’s Strategy for Survival (1972), Jury Selection Procedures: Our Uncertain Commitment to Representative Panels (1977), Sharing the Resources of the South China Sea (co-author 1997), Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawai`i? (2008) (which was picked as one of the six most memorable books of 2008 by the Honolulu Advertiser), International Law and Litigation in the U.S. (co-author, 3rd ed. 2009), and Checklists for Searches and Seizures in Public Schools (co-author updated annually) — and has edited another five books —Consensus and Confrontation: The United States and the Law of the Sea Convention (1985), International Navigation: Rocks and Shoals Ahead?(1988), Freedom for the Seas in the 21st Century (1993) (which was awarded the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award for 1994 by the International Studies Association), Updating International Nuclear Law(2007), and Maritime Boundary Disputes, Settlement Processes, and the Law of the Sea (2009).

His biography also said he has also written numerous articles on international ocean law, international human rights, international environmental law, and the rights of Native Hawaiians.





  1. This is Ken Conklin. I am not qualified to assess Jon VanDyke’s scholarly performance on most of the areas of his work, but I do know that in my own area of expertise he did not hesitate to tell falsehoods or twist the truth regarding the Rice v. Cayetano decision, the ceded lands, and the Akaka bill. Perhaps that’s because, according to a published report, he took millions of dollars in legal fees (payoffs) from OHA for writing books, articles, and giving testimony as a shill for OHA’s political views. I appeared on several TV and radio panels alongside him, debating those topics. I’ll never forget that when the moderator opened the hour-long program by asking him to describe Rice v. Cayetano, the first sentence he spoke was a falsehood that it had been a 5-4 decision. It was actually 7-2, although 2 of those 7 wrote separate but concurring decisions because they wanted to go even further than the other 5 in overturning the 9th Circuit Court. When I explained this, he sheepishly backed off, apparently surprised that a non-lawyer would dare to challenge his outrageous twisting of the facts. Regarding the ceded lands: there’s an article in the UH Law Review Vol. 31, No. 2, Fall 2008, pp. 341-368 by Paul Sullivan, an attorney who politely but powerfully refutes what Van Dyke wrote in his book about the ceded lands:

    • I find it troubling that someone educated enough to be able to add PhD to the end of their name lacks enough common sense to know the proper forum to spread their political and social views. This is not an article on Rice v. Cayetano nor on any legal/political/social views of Professor Van Dyke. It is a piece about the passing of a human being. While I am an attorney who attended UH Law, I did not take any classes from Professor Van Dyke and had no social or professional relationship with him whatsoever. I know I did not always agree with his views, nor did I agree whole-heartedly with ANY of my professors’ views. If I felt moved enough to post something disagreeing with his position or calling him out on something I perceived as misleading or a falsehood, I would find an article dealing with the subject matter I disagreed with him on and I would comment there. So why not do that? Or maybe go write a book about him and your opinions of him which maybe 12 or 13 people would buy? No one reading this article cares about your political views or what you THINK you know about the law. (And trying to elevate your legal prowess by pointing out that you know the diference between a 5-4 decision with 4 dissents and a decision with 2 concurrences and 2 dissents is merely shameless self aggrandizing.) While I certainly agree that you have the legal right to express your opinions here as comments to this article and you are free to exhibit poor judgment and bad taste in whatever forum you see fit, I also understand that I am free to publicly call you on you ignorance of common decency. While not quite on the same level this is akin to protesting the war at the funerals of soldiers. Its just plain classless.

  2. Ken,
    Have you no shame? The man just passed away. Your post is incredibly tasteless and inappropriate and you come off as angry, insensitive and egotistical. The article on Van Dyke’s passing is not an appropriate vehicle, or soap box, for you to spew your hate and racists views.

    You should be embarrassed.

  3. Ken,

    I don’t think you deserve this much attention or even this sentence. You are an idiot and a prick.

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