James Pietsch


William S. Richardson School of Law

Professor James H. Pietsch of the William S. Richardson School of Law has been recognized as the recipient of the 2016-17 Robert W. Clopton Award for Distinguished Community Service. Professor Pietsch’s long career of direct service has had at its core his special emphasis on our state’s elderly and disabled, disenfranchised, abused and socially and economically needy residents. This service on varied and jagged social issues has literally reached around the world.

Professor Pietsch has deeply integrated teaching and research with service to the elderly and their caregivers, with significant and profound impact upon the lives of many thousands in our island communities. Known as “Mr. Elder Law” for inaugurating this field of law in Hawai`i, his stellar reputation in the medical, social work and legal community places him at the nexus for legal and ethics consultation on the multiple and complex issues that arise at the end of life. His contributions towards developing what is now known as “advance health care directives” has had deep and sustained consequences on the experience of dignity for the people of Hawaii at life’s end, as has his role on the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Living and Dying with Dignity.

Professor Pietsch’s exemplary legacy of service in Hawaiʻi demonstrates commitments to building programs and partnerships with a national and global reach. Veterans issues are both local and national in nature and his service as Special Advisor to the Law and Order Task Force in Iraq drew upon his own history as a veteran in the military, integrated with his legal expertise for: securing a Rule of Law Complex for the safety of all involved in trial under Iraqi law, for conducting training programs for members of the Task Force, establishing of the first Legal Aid Clinic for detainees, and an Operational Manual directly based on his experience in the Elder Law Clinic.

Professor James Pietsch inspires many students to commit to sustained engagement in service to their communities as future professionals through his role in establishing a mandatory pro bono graduation requirement of 60 hours of service to underserved populations, culminating in more than 100,000 hours of community service and preparing law graduates to continue his legacy of service, a legacy that has created in others a kind of alchemy, transforming their own efforts and commitments into a gold standard. Graduates view him as a truly unique member of the university, epitomizing a life long commitment to community by a university professor.

William S. Richardson School of Law