Recipient of the 2021 AJS Herbert Harley Award
The Herbert Harley Award is named after the founder of the American Judicature Society and is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions that substantially improved the administration of justice in Hawai‘i.
Ronald Tai Young Moon was born on September 4, 1940 and is a graduate of Mid-Pacific Institute (Class of 1958). He received his undergraduate degree from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and is a 1965 graduate of the University of Iowa School of Law. He served a one-year term as law clerk to then-Chief Judge Martin Pence of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai‘i and was subsequently employed with the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu from 1966 to 1968. Thereafter, he joined a law firm then known as Libkuman, Shimabukuro and Ventura, which focused on insurance defense work, that is, defending people who were sued and had insurance coverage for the wrong that they allegedly committed. After four years as an associate, he became a partner in the law firm of Libkuman, Ventura, Moon & Ayabe and left private practice in 1982 upon being appointed to the circuit court bench.
Judge Moon served as a trial judge for eight years and was elevated to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court on March 9, 1990 as an associate justice. On March 31, 1993, he was sworn-in as the 17th chief justice of Hawai‘i — the 4th chief justice since statehood — and the first Korean-American to become chief justice of any supreme court in the nation. In 2003, Chief Justice Moon was retained to serve a second term of office. He retired from the Judiciary, effective September 1, 2010.
As the leader of the third branch of government for more than 17 years, Chief Justice Moon consistently focused on measures to elevate public trust and confidence in the justice system. His tenure has been focused on four far-reaching goals: (1) enhancing the administration of justice; (2) increasing access to the courts; (3) preserving the independence of the judiciary; and (4) educating the public about their justice system. Each of the many projects and initiatives implemented to achieve these goals have impacted, and will continue to impact, the people of Hawai‘i for generations to come.
Chief Justice Moon’s management style can best be described as “leading by example.” He personifies hard work, excellence, determination, integrity, compassion, and civility. Above all, he exemplifies an untiring commitment to a just and independent judiciary, to the legal community, and the public. In recognition of his more than three decades of service to the people of Hawai‘i and especially for his more than 17 years as leader of the third branch of government, the Kapolei Judiciary Complex was named as the Ronald T. Y. Moon Judiciary Complex and its courthouse as the Ronald T. Y. Moon Kapolei Courthouse. The magnificent courthouse and complex in the second city of Kapolei will serve as an inspiration to all to lead by example, to remember our public service, to strive for excellence, and to maintain a just, fair, and accessible justice system. Similarly, the United Chinese Society’s selection of Chief Justice Moon as the 2010 Model Citizen and all of its prior honorees serve as an inspiration to the Chinese community, as well as the community-at-large, to dedicate themselves to the betterment of our fellow men and women.
HIGHLIGHTS OF CHIEF JUSTICE MOON’S TENURE
Chief Justice Moon was the driving force behind the Judiciary’s Judicial Performance Program because he believed that increasing the public’s trust and confidence in their justice system begins with providing judges a mechanism for self-improvement. Under his leadership, Hawai‘i’s program was established in 1993, which, at the time, was one of only 13 judicial evaluation programs nationwide. In 2001, under Chief Justice Moon’s direction, appellate justices and judges were evaluated for the first time, making Hawai‘i the only state without judicial retention elections that evaluates its appellate justices and judges.
With the chief justice’s full support, the Hawai‘i Judiciary’s Drug Court Program continues to provide adults and juveniles, as well as their families, with valuable community services and treatment to break the cycle of addiction to reduce repeat drug-related offenses. The first drug court program began on O‘ahu in 1996. As a result of its success and under Chief Justice Moon’s direction, court administrators have now implemented adult, juvenile, and/or family drug courts statewide.
Chief Justice Moon’s tenure has been marked with a number of “firsts.” In addition to being the first state to conduct appellate judicial performance evaluations, Chief Justice Moon, in 1997, was the first chief justice in state history invited to deliver the State of the Judiciary Address to a joint session of the state Legislature and continued to do so throughout his tenure. In 1999, Oahu’s district court became the first state court in the nation to participate as a judicial partner in a program called Weed and Seed, an innovative community enhancement program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice. Law enforcement, including the judiciary, and various community stakeholders work closely to “weed out” certain offenders from, and resolve the needs of, a federally-designated community — which, in Hawai‘i, is the Chinatown/Kalihi-Palama neighborhood. Hawai‘i’s special approach to these cases resulted in national recognition, and court officials were invited to the National Conference on Preventing Crime (held in Washington, D.C.) to present the details of the program to other criminal justice system professionals.
Another “first” is Hawai‘i’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement or HOPE Program, which was launched in 2004. HOPE is built on the premise that people should be accountable for their actions and that there should be swift and proportionate consequences when rules are not followed. The program is also based upon providing rehabilitation and second chances. Based on its documented success, the HOPE Program serves as a model for other judiciaries across the nation. In 2010, similar programs were started in Nevada and Oregon; Virginia, Alaska, Arizona, and many other states are getting organized and/or expressing interest in starting the program.
Chief Justice Moon understands the need for court systems to develop viable systems to provide competent interpretation services to limited and non-English speakers. His visionary administration and steadfast support for establishing a language-access program to address the unique needs of Hawai‘i’s state court users results in the Judiciary’s successfully launching its Courts Interpreter Certification Program in 2007. Since its inception, the Hawai‘i Judiciary has helped to train over 60 Pacific Island interpreters in various languages, such as Chamorro, Cantonese, Mandarin, Chuukese, Kosraen, Japanese, Korean, Marshallese, Palauan, Pohnpeian, Tagalog, Ilokano, Pampango, Vietnamese, and Yapese. The program has also served as a progressive model and innovative approach for other judiciaries to emulate.
CHIEF JUSTICE MOON’S COMMITMENT TO CIVIC EDUCATION
Chief Justice Moon’s tireless commitment to education has dramatically increased Hawai‘i’s participation in nationally renowned civic education programs. He strongly believes that the reintroduction of civics and government as a core subject in our schools is the key to enhancing public-spiritedness and enhancing public understanding of government. In 1999, with Chief Justice Moon’s support, the Judiciary implemented Parents and the Law, a curriculum initiative developed by Streetlaw, Inc., to give teenage parents the knowledge and skills necessary to cope with legal issues related to parental rights and responsibilities. Since 2001, the Judiciary, through its King Kamehameha Fifth Judiciary History Center, continues to work closely with the Department of Education to conduct workshops that provide teachers with some basic foundation in themes of democracy, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, including conducting simulated congressional and public policy hearings. Additionally, Chief Justice Moon has worked tirelessly to educate the public about Hawai‘i’s justice system by writing articles and delivering numerous speeches to a variety of audiences on judicial independence, civics education, and decision-making in the courts.
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS IN THE JUDICIARY
Prior to taking office in 1993, the last court facility to be built was the Lahaina District Court facility on Maui in 1987. During his 17-year tenure as head of the third branch of government, Chief Justice Moon, along with his dedicated team of administrators, worked diligently on capital improvement projects that culminated in four new courthouses: (1) Abner Paki Hale in Kāne‘ohe, which opened in March 2003; (2) Puʻuhonua Kaulike (or Sanctuary of Justice) in Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i, which opened in August 2005; (3) Hale Kaulike (or House of Justice) in Hilo on the Big Island in April 2009; and (4) the Ronald T. Y. Moon Judiciary Complex, which houses the Ronald T. Y. Moon Kapolei Courthouse and the new, state-of-the-art juvenile detention facility, Hale Maluhia, in May 2010. Each of these new facilities have enhanced court operations and provided greater access to justice for our citizens, a safer environment for our judges, court employees, and court users, and a valuable resource for their respective communities.
As a graduate of the University of Iowa Law School, Chief Justice Moon was featured as one of the first alumni honorees in its Gallery of Honor display at the entrance of the Boyd Law Building (1999). In May 2001, Chief Justice Moon received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Chief Justice Moon also received the Hawaiʻi State Bar Association’s Golden Gavel Award (2001). In recognition of his longstanding contributions to the improvement of the justice system on the national level, Chief Justice Moon received the National Center for State Court (NCSC)’s 2003 Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest awards presented by the Center; an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Inha University (Incheon, Korea; October 2003); co-recipient of the Grand Prize Award given by Kyungmin Mission Schools (Korea, October 2003) for his dedication and efforts to the betterment of the international community; the Korean American Foundation Hawaii’s Light of the Orient award (January 13, 2008) in recognition of his accomplishments and contributions to the Korean community; the American Bar Association Pursuit of Justice Award (Tort Trial & Ins. Practice Section, 2006); the Filipino Community’s Pasuquinio Association of Hawaii’s award for exemplary service (August 2008); and the Order of Civil Merit “Moran Medal” presented by Korean Consul General Bong Joo Kim on behalf of the Korean Government (November 2008).
In August 2010, Chief Justice Moon received the NCSC’s Harry L. Carrico Award, which recognizes a sitting state chief justice “who has inspired, sponsored, promoted or led an innovation or accomplishment of national significance in the field of judicial administration.” In September 2010, the Hawaiʻi State Bar Association presented Chief Justice Moon with its President’s Award, which is bestowed upon an individual “whose extraordinary contributions and/or lifetime achievement best exemplify the mission statement of the Hawai‘i State Bar Association: To unite and inspire Hawai‘i’s lawyers to promote justice, serve the public, and improve the legal profession.” In October 2010, Chief Justice Moon was inducted into the Society of Legacy Honorees, having been selected as a Legacy Award recipient in the Judiciary category. Established in 2006, the Legacy Award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated personal successes and significant contributions in their professional field to the betterment of the community.