Point and Shoot


Matt VanDyke was a recent college grad with a love of video games and action movies when he decided to embark on a “crash course in manhood.” With a motorcycle and a video camera, he set off on a life-changing 35,000-mile odyssey across North Africa and the Middle East that led to his participation in the 2011 Libyan revolution against Muammar Gaddafi and six-month imprisonment in Libya.


As VanDyke worked to reshape himself, he also helped create a stunning portrait of how the ever-present cameras in our “selfie society” not only record our lives, but also craft who we become.


Drawing from more than 100 hours of VanDyke’s videos, director Marshal Curry, with full creative independence in the making of the documentary, has created a riveting film that asks thorny questions about manhood, personal risk and the nature of war in the era of social media.


Curious About… Victoria, British Columbia


This series takes viewers on an enriching and entertaining “field trip for grown-ups” to some of the most intriguing European and North American cities in the world. Entertainment journalist Christine Van Blokland brings her passion and genuine curiosity for the arts, quirky characters, storytelling and lifelong learning to this new series. In each location, Christine explores the hidden histories in their art, architecture, museums, monuments, houses of worship and city parks.


Curious About… Victoria, British Columbia
Who was “A.B.C. Architect” and why did he design such a grand Parliament Building in Victoria? What is Fan Tan Alley, and what does it have to do with the 2nd oldest Chinatown in North America? How did an 11th and 12th century French, Spanish & Italian Romanesque-style castle, built for a Scottish self-made millionaire, become “Canada’s Castle?” Why isn’t there a sign above the main entrance to The Empress Hotel? And finally, as we take High Tea here, is it pinkies up or down?


Tea Time


Five Chilean women who gather monthly for a ritual that has sustained them through 60 years of personal and societal change. See how a routine of tea and pastries helped them commemorate life’s joys and cope with infidelity, illness and death.


Return to Homs


Witness the transformation of 19-year-old Basset Saroot from star goalkeeper for the Syrian national soccer team to peaceful advocate for reforms to armed insurgent. Get an inside look at the brutal war President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has waged, a conflict that many accuse the world of overlooking.


Web Junkie


Follow the military-style rehab of three Chinese teenagers, obsessive gamers who prefer the virtual world to the real one. The film is an emotional voyage that examines the results of internet addiction and its effects on families and interpersonal relationships, while examining the cultural and emotional effects of this type of treatment.


Tough Love


Having lost custody of their children, two parents fight to win back the trust of
the courts and reunite their families. Acknowledging their past parenting mistakes,
both contend with a complex bureaucracy to prove they deserve a second chance.


Marie Milks


When retired State Circuit Judge Marie Nakanishi Milks was just three years old, she boarded a bus on the heels of an adult stranger and went on her own to her auntie’s house across town. Meanwhile, her frightened parents had called police, thinking she’d been kidnapped – and an island-wide hunt was underway. That was just the beginning of a life of discovery and travel. Milks recalls humble beginnings as the daughter of a waiter and a house cleaner in a modest rental home in Honolulu. She would take a job in Washington D.C. with Congresswoman Patsy Mink, go to law school, and become a respected judge who presided over major criminal cases in Hawaii. Today, in retirement, she travels the world.


This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Sept. 13 at 4:00 pm.


Marie Milks Audio


Download the Transcript




I would say that of all the cases I had, probably my highlight as a public defender was Henry Huihui IV, who was charged with robbery. The jury went home late at night. The next day, he saw me on the doorsteps. He said, You know, Marie, when the trial started, I thought I was guilty, but after your closing argument, I had reasonable doubt. And you know, if you’ve tried a case, that’s gotta be classic. And I said to myself, I think he just admitted to me he might have done it. You know.


Retired judge Marie Milks had a passion for criminal law. After serving as a public defender for seven years, she was appointed by Chief Justice William Richardson to a judgeship on the State District Court. Four years later, Governor George Ariyoshi appointed her to the Circuit Court, where she spent much of the next twenty years judging criminal cases. Marie Milks, next, on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Retired Judge Marie Nakanishi Milks was not only the first woman to be appointed to the State District Court in Honolulu, she was also the first Asian. She went on to become the first woman appointed after statehood to the Circuit Court, where she was a judge until she retired in 2004. Marie Milks grew up in Honolulu in the late 1940s and 50s in a family that didn’t have a lot of money. Despite that, her parents made sure she got a good education, both inside as well as outside the classroom.


I had a very different kind of upbringing, partly because my father was really old when I was born. First of five children; forty-five years old. And so, he was very proud, you know, that he had a child. And I call him my first male friend. My father worked at night as a waiter; he was at the Waikiki Tavern, and then the Oahu Country Club. So, he would take me to the beach. I spent time with J. Aku Head Pupule’s children. He took me to Chinatown, where he played chess with his buddies. And then, on almost a daily basis, we would go to the Art Academy, then the Honolulu Art Academy, and then to the zoo. Mostly to get me away from home, where my mother was taking care of the other children that came two years at a time. You know.


So, you had a private audience with your dad.


I did; yeah.


All those months or years.






Yeah. And it was, I guess, an introduction that men were okay. You know, older men were okay. And I think it helped me in later life to accept a lot of the mentoring that I got from some of the male judges. And you have to understand, when I started at the Public Defender’s Office, some of my fellow public defenders would grouse about Judge this and Judge that, and I was them in a different light. A lot of them were like my uncles, my dad. And when they criticized me, I just took it as they were correcting my behavior.


Your mom didn’t speak in English, and she wasn’t schooling you in things.


One of my earliest memories of growing up with my mother was going to my friend’s house one day. Judith Angel, in the third grade. And I just thought she was the cat’s meow; she had blond hair. I wanted to be a Haole; I wanted blond hair. And we were in the living room, and I heard her radio, and I heard English voices. I said, Wow, your radio has English. My radio only has Japanese. She turned dial, and I went …


So, your dial never left the Japanese channel.




Ah …


I thought that was volume control. Third grade, now. I mean, slow in the head. I was ten years old almost before I realized that radios actually had channels on them, you know.


What about your dad? ‘Cause you had a lot of time with him.


My father was very, very strict about English. He was working as a waiter; he was with members at the country club. And we could not speak Pidgin in the home. I mean, really.


What happened if you did?


Oh, he would call us bakatare, and tell us, low class, and made us speak English.


Even with your buddies?


Yes. I mean, I was teased in elementary school. Haole lover, that kind of thing. Because I wouldn’t speak Pidgin. I couldn’t. I mean, that was a no-no in the family. So, one day, we had neighbors come to the house. They went up the steps, jumped, and broke the punee. And Rodney says, I never do ‘em, I never do ‘em. I said, It’s not I never do ‘em, it’s I didn’t do ‘em.


You know. So, I was the one correcting people.


And Kaahumanu School; that was a lot of town kids, lots of Pidgin. A lot of them didn’t do Standard English as well as Pidgin; it was Pidgin only.


Yeah, but we had teachers. You know, I had wonderful, wonderful teachers in elementary school. And I had one teacher in particular who was into poetry, in the third grade, Mrs. Macario. We had to recite poetry. But my recollection of Kaahumanu was very competitive for grades, and test scores. You know, we had to do well. And we were required, I mean, not only by the teachers, but by my parents; I had to produce. If I had a report card with all pluses and one check, I had to explain the check. What’s … what’s this?


What was your explanation?


I didn’t blame it on the teacher. I said, I guess I have to study harder. You know, that was always—


And that was an acceptable answer, probably the only acceptable answer.




So, your father is this Renaissance man who loves art, music, chess.


Polo; he played polo, he surfed. We have pictures of him with a surfboard. You know, with his horse. So, I was exposed at a young age to a whole different kind of world, even though I wasn’t financially or in a class that was, you know, high, middle, and felt very poor. I used to have to walk to the Natatorium from Nuuanu, from Country Club Road, because we couldn’t afford the bus fare. I had to sew my own clothes, you know. I think, though, looking back, that probably is the best thing that happened to me, because it really allows you to have gratitude, you know, for everything you have. I had one good friend, who’s now deceased, who believed in me. And you know, when we were seniors in high school, going on to be senior, she asked me, Why aren’t you in the Honor Society?




I said, Nobody told me. And she went to the registrar and found the information. On my GPA, my card—back in the days, they had index cards—was paper-clipped behind somebody else’s information.


So, you’d been making good grades, but you weren’t recognized as someone who made good grades.


Yeah, I had about a 3.9, whatever it was, which is pretty good. So, I got into the Honor Society, and my friend Mamo who got me into the National Honor Society was going off to college. And she said, Why aren’t you going to college? And at that time, you know, the tuition at the University of Hawaii was a hundred dollars a semester, and my parents were not going to pay; they couldn’t afford it. And the only way I could have gone to college would have been a scholarship. She filled out an application for me, and got me a State of Hawaii scholarship for four years through then Councilmember Frank Loo.


Amazing. And what’s Mamo’s last name? I know you said she passed away.


Yeah; Mamo Kuwanoe Powers. And her daughter, you know, recently got married and has a son. So, I’m kinda like a grandmother.


That’s a life-changing friend.


It is. I mean, I didn’t even apply to college. You know, so this is somebody to whom I owe not only her, but her daughter and grandson, you know, gratitude.


Retired State Judge Marie Milks finished college in three and a half years, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. She was considering options for what to do next when, once again, a helpful classmate made a suggestion, which led Milks to law school.


There was a big scandal in Hawaii with Hiram Fong; there was a nepotism issue that he was hiring relatives. So, Patsy Mink decided she would hire somebody through the Department of Labor. There was a posting for a job with her, and a classmate of mine said, Hey, you should go to Washington. So, I applied, went to an interview. I was a great typist; I could type a hundred and twenty words a minute; really fast. But the day she was going to call me, I had changed my mind. I had decided I didn’t want to go to Washington. So, I practiced. Mrs. Mink, I’m sorry, but I’ve decided—no. I’m sorry, but I decided to take another semester. So, I practiced and practiced. Phone rang. Marie, Patsy Mink’s on the phone. And I say, Hello. And she says, Can you start on January 19th? And I said, Okay. What did I just do? This is the end of my life as I know it. But you know, another opportunity. And working for her, think the biggest revelation to me was how you could be a woman and be a professional. You know. And she was remarkable. I wished more people knew her the way I got to see her.


I know she was considered an absolute workhorse.




And she expected so much from her staff.


Oh; we had to work Monday through Friday, and four hours on Saturday mornings. Which is what was almost a nonstarter for me to go to law school, because I had Saturday classes as a night student. And I had to talk to the dean, and he said, I think it’s going to be too hard for you to do this. And I said, I wouldn’t have applied.


You went to Georgetown.




Working five and a half days a week?


Yeah; yeah.


And that was a tough school to get into.




Were you a first there, too? Were you a first?


I think that’s what helped a lot. If I were to apply to Georgetown Law today, I … tell you, my chance of getting in would be zero, next to zero.


Why was it good then?


Because I was first Asian woman to ever apply.


Ever to apply?




Ah …


First. And there were so few women. This is during the Vietnam era. The number of male students had been reduced somewhat, so they took on a few more women. And I just happened to be lucky, you know.


And you met all of their criteria, which were high.


Which helped; yeah. Well, you know, I had good grades in college, and I had the Phi Beta Kappa admission, so that helped me. But … it was happenstance. And that was when I first wrote to Sam King. He corresponded with me and advised me about law school. And I thought, Hey, I think I want to be a family court judge. I applied to law school, by the way, to be a judge. That was going to be my career move. But it was family court that I was aspiring to at that time.


In law school, one of Marie Milks’ professors was Sam Dash, who was also her boss at the Criminal Law Institute, where she worked on a criminal offender program. Dash became one of the Watergate scandal prosecutors, and John Sirica, who presided over the Watergate trial, was one of her trial practice instructors. Milks’ exposure to criminal law shifted her interest away from family court.


After I started law school, criminal law became the thing for me. I just wanted to be a criminal …




At that time, I had kinda just wanted to start as a criminal attorney. Prosecutor, defense attorney; didn’t matter.


It didn’t bother you which way you’d be arguing?


My own personal family background, and feeling like an underdog in many ways, I thought I was a pretty good champion for the oppressed. And I related; I could relate to a lot of the clients who came from, you know, family with very little. Although, I have to tell you, I used to get into fights with my clients who were very anti-Japanese. Back in the 70s, they felt that Japanese people had things easy. You know, DOE; oh, look at all the DOE people, and da-da, and you Japanese. You know, I used to get that from some of my Waianae clients. And then, the the Kawananakoa public school came out of me; I said, Eh …


Eh, you know what? If you want to see who had a tougher life, I’m gonna win. So … back off. You know? And not that I had a tougher life, but I didn’t go to Punahou, you know. And that was the expectation of many of the clients, that I had the silver spoon, that I must have come from a rich family.


How did you develop their trust?


I worked hard. See, that’s the other thing. I don’t think that any one of them could ever feel that I sloughed off on things. Although, you know, I didn’t have the world’s best clients. I had some who were just horrible. I had three of my aunties go to court to watch me do a trial. It happened to be a sex assault case. And after the first day, they didn’t want to go back. Oh, it’s terrible, the kinds of people you represent. So, they didn’t come back to watch me anymore.


How did you put it together in your mind? You know, in some cases, sure looks like your client’s guilty.   And you’re associated with that person.


Yeah; yeah. You know, and it wasn’t that they looked guilty; a lot of them were really, really guilty. But there’s a little bit in some of us when you have a challenge or something difficult, it makes it almost easier. Because I always felt that even if my client was in fact convicted, it wouldn’t be that they were innocent and were convicted. That, you know, the case was proved. The harder question for me as a public defender was a question people asked all the time. How can you do it, when you know they’re guilty? How can you represent them, you know, when you know they did it? And my answer was, Well, the prosecutor went to law school; it’s their job to convict. It wasn’t my job to get them off. But it was rational; you know, it’s something that you have to kind of understand yourself, what your role is. Your role is to defend; it wasn’t to prove innocence, and it wasn’t to prove that my client didn’t do it. So, it was, I think an easier approach.


So, your job was to provide a spirited and and aggressive defense.


Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You understand your job, and that’s when you can have pride in what you’re doing.


After serving as a public defender for seven years, Marie Milks was appointed to a Hawaii State District Court judgeship in 1980.


You know, I remember when you went from the Public Defender’s Office to Circuit Judge, hearing criminal cases. I was a journalist at the time. There was a lot of concern that you would be a softy. Oh, poor defendant.


Oh, yeah.


You would go on that side. But actually, that didn’t happen. That was rarely the criticism leveled against you, if there was criticism.


M-hm. But see, I had career criminal defendants, so a lot of the sentences were mandatory. So, even if I wanted to be a softy, I couldn’t. But, you know, in all honesty about my own self-assessment, I thought I was pretty fair about what the appropriate sentence was. And from the general public’s standpoint, you don’t get to read everything, you know, in the pre-sentence report. And as a judge, you can’t repeat a lot of what you see. But if people saw the full extent of the reports we have, I think more people would be appreciative of what judges evaluate.


The other thing was, and I actually was called on a jury at one point; I realized, and I saw it for myself that the very people who say throw the book at him, send him away, didn’t want to convict.




It’s hard to decide that somebody might have to go to jail.


Yeah. That, plus you know, proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not what you feel. Because there were a lot of cases where there was that sense that the evidence wasn’t sufficient, and you have to learn to distinguish levels of decision making. But I really honestly believe that ninety-nine percent of people, if they were given the same kind of information that any particular judge had, would likely agree with most of what judges do. You know, I had one client, for an example, who was a serial rapist. He raped a lot of women. And back in those days when I was a public defender, they called it rape; they didn’t call it sex assault. He was the nicest client you would ever meet, admitted his wrongdoing every time. But he still … sexually assaulted people. But only people who handicapped or in wheelchairs. I mean, right? I mean, the reaction is, Well, what kind of horrible person would do this? Well, then I, as his attorney, got the pre-sentence report. Horrors of horrors; when he was three years old, his mother put firecrackers in his ear and lit them. You know? So, a lot of the defendants themselves have been very badly treated. Not an excuse, mind you. I’m not saying that gave him an excuse. But it can explain, you know, how people can go bad.


Yeah; I’ve heard the expression, Victims often victimize others.


Exactly. You know, one of the bigger points for me in my entire legal and judicial career was handling the Xerox, the Uyesugi case.


And the Byran Uyesugi seven-murder case was probably the biggest—well, one of the biggest legal cases in Hawaii over the decades. I remember that morning; I listening on the police radio as a reporter.


Oh, me too.


And you know, shots were ringing out at the Xerox building and there were seven deaths. And you were the judge presiding over the trial of the Xerox employee accused.


Right. Very interestingly; during the trial, he kept staring at me. You know. But he never scared me. I felt sorry for him. I did. And lot of my associates think there’s something wrong with me when I said I felt sorry for the defendants, but I did. I felt sorry for the father.


He lived with his father, as I recall.


Yeah; and the father went out and apologized for him. And we see that so many times in crimes that happen; parents apologizing for their children. And you know, I feel for them, because it’s tough to be aligned with somebody who does something, you know, heinous. Really; it was heinous. I feel sorry, actually, for a lot of the defendants and the families, what they go through. But I’m saying that this feeling sorry is more about the humaneness of what I’ve done, but the punishment was well-deserved. But that’s not to say I didn’t feel sorry for the victims, either. You know, it’s just that it’s sad when people do things like that, you know.


You sent him away for a life term without parole.






Right. There were several gratifying things about that case, one of which is—and I always subscribed to this as a judge on the bench, and that was to have regard for the victims. You know, you don’t take their side, but you always have to appreciate what victims go through. People don’t ask to be robbed. People don’t ask for their homes to be burglarized. But a couple years ago, one of the widows wrote to me and asked me for a job recommendation. You know, and I’ve had a good relationship with victims in other cases as well. But with respect to that case, one of the most gratifying things for me is, very few people know who the presiding judge was on that case. And to me, that’s the ultimate compliment to a judge who presides on a case; and that is, they don’t identify you with the case. It was about the facts, it was about the defendant, it was about the victims, and very little about the judge.


While Marie Milks was spending long hours as a public defender and then as a judge, she and her husband, Bill Milks, now a retired attorney, were also busy raising a family.


My daughter, her friends would say, Oh, you’re so lucky, you know, your mom’s a judge, you’re gonna da-da-da-da. And … not so true. Our son, on the other hand, really liked the idea that I was a judge, because the male-female thing; right? Having a mom as a judge, from a male perspective, was easier for him to handle than our daughter. I regret that I didn’t spend more time with them. But if I didn’t have decent kids who I didn’t have to go to parent-teacher meetings all the time, where would my career have gone? So, it was a family adventure, so to speak.


Did it work the other way with your husband?


Bill has never been intimidated by me at all. And one of his lines to me is, Marie, you know, you can’t be a judge twenty-four hours a day. But he’s been really, really supportive, everything I’ve striven for.


State Circuit Court Judge Marie Milks retired from the bench in 2004. Since then, she’s been serving as a part-time mediator, helping people resolve cases through compromise rather than through the courts. At the time of our conversation in summer of 2015, she and her husband were traveling the world, a passion that, as you will see, Marie Milks has pursued since she was a little girl. Mahalo to retired Judge Marie Milks for sharing your story with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit


When I was three, I said to my mother basically, I was gonna go to school. So, my mom says, Okay. Fixed me a little brown bag with some books and some Lifesavers, and … ‘Bye. Off I go, and I cross the street … to take the bus. And I got on the bus.


The bus driver didn’t say anything to this three-year-old girl?


He saw me get on the bus with somebody else. I knew where to get off, and this was at Keeaumoku and King Street, the old Sears building, which then became HPD. And my cousin and auntie, and everybody else lived on Young Street. So, I pull the signal, and I went to my auntie’s house. Now, here’s my auntie thinking that my parents just dumped me off at their house without telling her. So, I’m playing with my cousins. Meantime, she goes to the corner of Young Street and Keeaumoku, and they had this wagon. They had the sakanaya-san and the yasai-san, where they pull their sides up and sell fish or sell vegetables. So, my aunt is there when somebody comes up and says, Did you hear on the radio your niece was kidnapped, and the police are looking for her? And she says, She’s in my house.



It got to be the family story; Marie is gonna travel the world when she grows up.




Fixing Juvie Justice

PBS HAWAII PRESENTS Fixing Juvie Justice


Young people are entering the juvenile justice system in surprising numbers, and they seem to emerge worse than when they entered. In this film, a co-production of National Geographic and Pacific Islanders in Communications, we see how a group of innovators applies the restorative justice principles of the Maori people of New Zealand to the mean streets of Baltimore.


In Maori villages of the past, a crime would put the community out of balance. Traditional Maori justice turns on the idea of restoring that balance. This film crosses the globe to a culturally sacred marae (meeting ground) where Judge Heemi Taumanu has established an alternative youth court that draws on these principles. Viewers see how people come together to resolve conflict in their own communities and all of the drama that unfolds when everyone is given a chance and encouraged to let emotions out. Can a community-based approach to justice derived from a structure conceived centuries ago in New Zealand give hope to the mean streets of the United States?


William S. Richardson


Original air date: Tues., Jan. 6, 2009


Former Hawai‘i Chief Justice


William S. Richardson recalls growing up in a house his dad built along a dirt lane in Kaimuki. When the family moved there from Palama, they had so few possessions they simply took what they had on a streetcar. Those were simpler times for the man who would go on to be Lt. Governor (under John A. Burns), Chief Justice of the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court and Bishop Estate Trustee.


Popularly known as CJ, for Chief Justice, William Richardson is also the man for whom the law school at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa is named. CJ Richardson joins Leslie Wilcox for an engaging conversation on Long Story Short.


William S. Richardson Audio


Download the Transcript




Throughout the Hawaiian islands, we can all enjoy the beautiful beaches because they belong to the State, not private landowners.   No one can “own” our shorelines. Same goes for new lands created by volcanic activity. They belong to the state, to us all, not nearby property owners. These are concepts we might take for granted today; but it wasn’t always the case. They are two of the important rulings–laws of the land–that were handed down by the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court … led by a public school grad from Kaimuki. A conversation with Chief Justice, Retired, William S. Richardson, next.




Aloha no, I’m Leslie Wilcox of PBS Hawai‘i. Mahalo for joining me for another Long Story Short. Today we get to chat with William S. Richardson, who served as Hawai‘i State Supreme Court Chief Justice from 1966 to 1982. He also served as Lieutenant Governor, under John A. Burns, a trustee of the old Bishop Estate, and he was chairman of the Hawai‘i Democratic Party when Democrats surged to legislative power in 1954. And he’s the namesake of the state’s only law school. Popularly known as “CJ”, for Chief Justice, William Richardson was raised in a working-class family in Kaimuki.


When you say you grew up in Kaimuki, it’s not the Kaimuki that people here think of, is it?


No; it was a Kaimuki that for me, I had to walk through the lanes from Waialae Avenue, about three blocks, going toward Waikiki, through a lane to my house. My father built the house himself.


No streetlights and—


No streetlights.




Only a lane; we could only walk in a lane.


A dirt lane?


A dirt lane. We had no car yet.


And you moved to Kaimuki, which was country, after living in the city, Palama.


Yes. I don’t know whether we had very much. But we went by streetcar, and much of the time, we just caught the streetcar and carried whatever you owned on your back. And how far did the streetcar go? Well, at one time, to 6th Avenue, another time to 12th Avenue, and then next time, all the way down to Waialae Country Club, Kealaolu.


That was electric trolley, right?


Yes; yes. With the hook up above.


So it was the mass transit of yesteryear.


Well, you could call it that; yes, you could.


[chuckle] And one of your classmates was someone who also became very well known in Hawai‘i, an accomplished Isabella Aiona Abbott.


Oh, yes. She lived about three blocks away from me. She was one of the brains of the school.


[chuckle] She was the first native Hawaiian woman to get a PhD in science.


Yeah; and from Stanford, was it? Oh, yes; she’s a bright girl.


Well, talking about brains of the school; were you one of them?


Oh, no.


You sure?


Oh, yes, I’m sure of that. I mean, I got along; that was it.


When you finished high school, you went on to college. Was that a big thing in your family?


Yes, it was. Not many boys went on to college. And I think some people felt it was time for one to start working at sixteen or seventeen, and college was just out of the ordinary.


Why did you go? What was the impetus?


I think my father felt that I better get up there. And I think he had visions of my going to the University, but I didn’t have that vision yet. [chuckle]


Were you ambitious?


Not that I know of.


But you went ahead and went through four years at UH.


I went four years at UH, and enjoyed it all the way through.


Met a lot of people who would later be your allies in politics and—




—good friends in—


Good friends—


—a long life.


They helped me in everything I’ve done.


So you went to UH. And—




—you had more than most people of your time had; a college degree. But that wasn’t gonna be the end of your higher education.


Well, I thought it was, but I had a job with the oil company. And I thought, well, this would be great; I like this kind of work. I think I’ll do this the rest of my life. And then one of the professors up at school went to see my father, and she said, Now, this boy better go on to law school. And I said, Well, how can you do that, Dad; you can’t afford it. Well he said, You know, if you really gotta go, I’ll rent your room out, and you go on to college. Which he did. In those days, it was five days by steamship, and another four days by train to get to the East Coast.


When you were at the University of Cincinnati Law School, that was a different time racially. You’re Hawaiian, Chinese, Caucasian; what did people make of you? Where did you fit in?


Well, I suppose I fit in all right, but when the war came on, there was some stigma. Anybody different from the haole kids that were around, he was different.


Did people think you were Japanese at the—


I think many—


—at wartime?


I think many did after the war started, because they just didn’t know.


Do you remember getting exposed to overt racism?


Yes, but it was never so bad that I’d feel afraid to be around. And most of them knew that I was of draft age anyway, and that I wouldn’t be around very long, and draft would get me, and that would be the end of that.


And indeed, you went on to infantry training?


Yes; I went—those days, it was all Army, and I started with the Army air corps, and then I went to Fort Benning, Georgia in the infantry school for the Army. And from there on, I went on to the West Coast, and then to New Guinea, and then to the Philippines. I spent most of my time, Army time there in the Philippines.


Did that experience change your life in any way, being in the war?


I wouldn’t say that it did. I just took everything as it went along. I was draftable. Either go in as a foot soldier, or an officer, and that was it.


Is it true that when you went back to normal life, that you didn’t have to take the bar exam right after the war?


Well, that’s true, because they when I came back, it was an LLB, which was a little different from the JD today. And they said, Well, we’ll just send you your JD degree; and that’s it.


And so no hours and days, and weeks, and months of studying for the bar?


No; no. No; didn’t have to do that at all. I went into the Reserves, and they stuck me into the Judge Advocate General’s department, and there, I stayed until I retired from the Army. Which wasn’t very long. [chuckle]


Following the war, William Richardson began working as a lawyer and married his childhood sweetheart, Amy Ching. The two raised three children. In the mid-1950s, Richardson emerged as a leader on the islands’ political scene, working closely with those friends he got to know while attending the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.


You were one of the people that was excited about statehood, that helped to make it happen, that—re-crafted government in the wake of statehood. And now, we’re coming up on the fiftieth anniversary of statehood, 2009. Many Hawaiians don’t see that as cause for celebration.


Well to me, it’s great cause for celebration. We’re part of a great country. Like every other state in the union, they had to come up and live and have their new laws gibe with the old. Even if you go back to England, where the common law came over, and if you looked at the way the law went across the country right through the Louisiana Purchase, where the French came in, and we had—the country had to adjust to that. And now we must still look at how it affects the Far East and all the other countries and states, and islands throughout the Pacific Ocean.


Part of what is now, is based on the Great Mahele, King Kamehameha III. And that was considered a distribution—it was a distribution of land. Do you think that was …



Well, I—




I think it’s pono. I think our leaders of the past were as good as any that ever existed. That our Hawaiian ways were just ways of living. And Hawai‘i should revive what we could of the good parts. And I have to say almost all of it were good parts.


Is there a part of you that identifies with, say, the sovereignty activists or the people who say we let people take our land, or they took it from us, we need it back, we need to—we need better restitution?


Well, we have to use the American system, and the Hawaiian system, and we must find a solution to make it so that we’re not just coming up against each other without trying to resolve them in what we would consider a modern way of doing it. I don’t mean to say that we should reject any of the old ways, nor reject the new ways; but that’s for this court now, and their wise people that are—


M-m. Is one of the solutions a separate Hawaiian nation?


Oh, I don’t think we could go back to being a separate Hawaiian nation. I want to take the good parts of it; but no, I can’t go back to the old way. We’re a different nation today, and we’re living under a flag that we all love today.


Part-Hawaiian, Chinese and Caucasian, William Richardson has been credited with looking back to old Hawai‘i for new wisdom. Under his leadership, the Supreme Court gave the public access to Hawai‘i’s shorelines, and ruled that precious water and new lands created by lava flows belong to the State—decisions reflecting Richardson’s desire to incorporate Hawaiian customs as guiding principles within our legal system.


Your court was known as an activist court. You helped expand native Hawaiian rights. What are some of the things you are most proud of?


Well, I think I had a chance to—well, let me start this way. The previous Chief Justice was the first, and he had been ill for a long time. And so some of the big decisions that did not depend on rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court were held back. So some of the cases may be ten years old, and just weren’t taken up, because of his illness, and maybe because of the newness of the State, that some of the cases that were the real important ones were being set aside. Perhaps because the U.S. Supreme Court had coming out—had been coming out with a lot of the criminal cases. So in those cases, Hawai‘i merely followed suit. If the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a certain way, then we had to go along, of course. But then there were other cases peculiar of Hawai‘i; water, beaches, plantation differences, general growth of Hawai‘i that might be unique of Hawai‘i.


You could have used the English law as a precedent, but often you would look back at—to see what ali‘i from the monarchy days did.


Well, whenever I could, whatever the history books would come up with on old Hawai‘i, and what few things that I had picked up over the years, I felt that I should try to apply those to the extent that we could.


For example, when the question came, who owns the new land being created by lava from the volcano, what was the answer of your court?


Well, that seemed easy enough for me, but I know the beaches were needed in Hawai‘i. Without our beaches, there was no Hawai‘i to speak of, the Hawai‘i that we loved.


Now, in many parts of the continent, the beaches are private property, right?


Yes. And it seemed perfectly logical to me that people should be able to use the beaches, and that the property lines could not follow all of the methods of old England, say, and that I should try to bring those cases up in line to the way the Hawaiians did it.


It’s a monumental decision that affects us every day.


It does, and I go swimming too. And I know I can go up to a certain spot, and this is public property. And my friends and I can use it.


And that wasn’t the only big one you did. There were the rights of citizens to challenge land court decisions, native Hawaiian rights, and use of private property.






Again, I wasn’t that much of an expert on Hawaiian law. But I had a good court, and they were willing and able to go and look at all of the problems, and see what was going on. And I had traveled around the islands a lot, and you’re speaking now perhaps of water rights, which was so important, because we were a plantation community. And you get to a case like when two plantations began to argue over how much water they could have—they both needed water. But when a third one began to take too much water, to the detriment of some of the others, then you had to decide whose water should it be. The Robinson case in the end was clear to me, but it seemed revolutionary, I suppose. But the people who really needed the water were those in the bottom of the streams, the taro patch and rice patch owners. They’re the ones that needed the water. And so it seemed simple to me to just say, Well, neither of you is entitled to all of that water, it’s the people down below, the taro patch owners and the rice patch owners.


It’s elegantly simple. And the dean of the law school, which is named after you. Avi Soifer said, Imagine very complicated filings going on for years, big battle; and you said, Well, let’s take a look at what’s happening at the end of the line.


M-m. Well we were a new state, not used to following, just being a follower. We needed to decide for ourselves what was best for our people. And that’s how that one came out.


You took some heat over that, but—


I did.


—it became, a symbol of enlightenment, that people said, Here’s a far-thinking guy using the past to build on the future.


Well, of course, I’m glad to hear you say that. [chuckle] And I thought it was right. There was never any question in my own mind.


William S. Richardson says that, as Lieutenant Governor, he never asked or lobbied for the Chief Justice job with his boss, Governor Burns. But his wife Amy had something to say when the Governor picked up the phone and asked her about the prospect.


When he said, What’s this I hear about your husband being the Chief Justice? And he was silent after that; she gave him the works on that. She didn’t want me in politics anymore, and I’m sure she said to him, That would be great, he’d be out of politics if he got in as Chief Justice.


Not so fast. Richardson moved directly from the Lieutenant Governor’s office into leadership of the state’s highest court. Critics would say that, as head of the Judiciary, Richardson never did shake off his political ties, remaining close to the Governor and other politicians and power brokers in town. His term as Chief Justice would end with his own court selecting him for a political plum-trustee of the powerful and wealthy old Bishop Estate.


You know, I gotta mention one decision that your Supreme Court made, that was criticized, and that you were a part of. You were this very popular Chief Justice, who was retiring, and your court appointed you a Bishop Estate trustee. In fact, you took office a couple days after you left the CJ position. And we saw what happened with the Bishop Estate; there was this very close relationship with the Judiciary, with this private nonprofit. As you look back on those days, what do you think?


You mean, of the relationship between the Bishop Estate …


And the—


—and the court?


—Supreme Court.




I mean, do you think the Supreme Court had any business, really, picking Bishop Estate trustees?


Well, I think they should, because the Supreme Court seemed to be the best arbiter.


M-hm. And they gave you a term that was longer than the previously mandated term; you got to serve past seventy, which was the retirement age then.


Well, yeah; the State retirement is seventy. But that doesn’t mean that you had to follow that. I mean, seventy is an arbitrary figure, in a way.


You got very involved in the Democratic Revolution of 1954, played a key role and became Hawai‘i Democratic Party Chair. But I’ve heard you refer to yourself as the token Hawaiian among that core group.




Was that a joke, or were you serious?


I don’t know whether or not—perhaps I was token Hawaiian. But that’s not altogether true. There were other Hawaiians that were in leadership roles. I can’t remember all the names now. But it was a great group that was led by Governor Burns, who was firstly, a nobody to speak of, but he had been a police captain, and wanted to organize the party. And we met every Friday for lunch. And when the boys that went off to law school after the war came back, well, Governor Burns and I went and picked them up, and got them interested in the Democratic Party. And before we knew it, we had enough to take over the Democratic Party, and in the end I suppose the governorship and …


And you became Lieutenant Governor.


Yes; and from that, I guess he catapulted me into the chief justiceship, which I thoroughly enjoyed.


I notice you’re always ending up in these leadership or achievement positions, and you always say, I don’t know how that happened, I just kinda went along.


Well, that’s what happened; I went along. [chuckle] I mean, I enjoyed the work, and I didn’t mind being in the minority party at that time. I thought I was doing some good, and I thought I was doing something that would have a lasting effect.


I thought I was doing something that might improve the well being of all of the people of my age in Hawai‘i. And I think it turned out that way—that I thought I could help.


You’ve told me that your favorite job in the world has been CJ. What do you see as your legacy in that position? Clearly, your court made a number of benchmark rulings, but what do you think is the most important?


Well, I think I did the best I could to get the old Hawaiian way into—merged in with the American and the common law system of the past. The beaches, of course, I’m proud of that. And handling cases that involved volcanic action, that no place else in our country we’ve had.


Now there’s a law school named for you; the only law school in Hawai‘i is named after you.


Well, I must say I’m proud of it, and I’m proud of it because it means that some people that wouldn’t have had a chance to go to law school now have that opportunity.


At age 89 as I speak, the CJ is a regular at the William S. Richardson School of Law where he has an office and enjoys talking with the students. He says they don’t argue with him, but he respects different ideas—and anyway, it’s their future to shape now.


Mahalo to CJ Richardson for sharing stories with us on Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox of PBS Hawai‘i. A hui hou kakou.


My wife lived on the same street, as a matter of fact. [chuckle]


I heard a story she used to tell about meeting you. I recall her saying that she met you when she was watering the yard, and you were walking by from the—


Yes; she’d either be watering the yard or playing the piano. And she told people, Go water your yard, you never know what might happen. [chuckle] She did say that, jokingly.


So childhood sweethearts.


I suppose you could put it that way. She was a neighbor, two blocks away. But she went to that other school. She went to Punahou, and I went to Roosevelt.



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