Chief justice put solutions first


POSTED: Thursday, February 05, 2009

Herman T.F. Lum, a foot soldier in the Democratic revolution here who dedicated his career to public service and became the state's third chief justice from 1983 to 1993, died last month after a long illness.

Lum, who was 82, died Jan. 26 at the Hawaii Medical Center-East after suffering from Parkinson's disease, a disorder of the central nervous system.

Almira Lum, Lum's wife of nearly 60 years, said her husband passed away peacefully.

“;He was a great chief justice,”; former state appeals Judge James Burns said. “;He was able to get the court to work as a team, even though they had differences.”;

Chief Justice Ronald Moon said Lum pioneered significant programs, including pushing for dispute resolution by mediation and arbitration.

“;We are indebted to, and grateful for, the many and positive contributions he made to the people of Hawaii,”; he said.

Lum graduated from McKinley High School in 1944 and served twice in the military, first in the Navy after graduation and later with the Army during the Korean War.

But he managed to earn journalism and law degrees at the University of Missouri.

During the 1950s, when Democrats took control of the Legislature, Lum worked on Democratic campaigns, but he never ran for public office or sought the public limelight.

After he served as Oahu's campaign chairman for President Kennedy in 1960, Kennedy appointed him U.S. attorney here. Lum served until 1967, when he started his judicial career as a circuit judge in Family Court.

  In 1980 he was named an associate justice on the Hawaii Supreme Court. In 1983, Gov. George Ariyoshi named him chief justice.

Lum's tenure was not marked by the sweeping decisions of his predecessor, William Richardson, whose court issued landmark rulings on water rights and public access to beaches.

The reason, legal observers said, was that the Richardson court had already corrected perceived injustices from court decisions when Hawaii was a territory. Still, Lum's court upheld the state land reform residential lease-to-fee law, stuck down zoning by initiative and threw out the state ban on pornography sales.

Lum also faced political firestorms swirling around court lobbyist Tom “;Fat Boy”; Okuda, who left the Judiciary after a traffic ticket-fixing scandal. Near the end of his term, Lum acknowledged those controversies distracted from his primary job of delivering justice.

But he still managed to push for alternative dispute resolutions of civil cases. In 1985, Hawaii became the first state to create a comprehensive program to resolve civil disputes through arbitration and mediation.

Almira Lum said her husband never let his work interfere with being a dedicated father and husband.

“;When he came home, he just left the office behind him,”; she said. “;I would know when he was worried or stressed, but he never talked about it.”;

Lum's tenure was also marked by bitter infighting among the justices of the five-member court.

But Burns said Lum believed in the philosophy that “;you can disagree without being disagreeable.”;

Burns, son of former Gov. John A. Burns, who led the Democratic takeover during the 1950s, said he knew Lum when both were Family Court judges.

“;He was smart, but he was always cool, calm and collected,”; Burns said. “;His demeanor was very good for a judge. It was pretty hard to get under his skin.”;

“;He contributed a lot,”; Burns said. “;Hawaii has a lot to thank him for.”;

In addition to his wife, Lum is survived by sons Jonathan K.K. Lum and Forrest K.K. Lum, two grandchildren and sister Marjorie Tenn.

Almira Lum said the family wanted a private service, which was held Tuesday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.