After 35 years at the UH Law School, community activist Randy Roth will retire from teaching

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: May 10, 2017

Randy and Susie Roth
Randy and Susie Roth

UH Law Professor Randall W. Roth, a longtime activist on behalf of the community who, among other things, helped topple former trustees of the Bishop Estate through his “Broken Trust” essay and book, is retiring as a professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law after 35 years of teaching. His retirement takes effect June 1.

Dean Avi Soifer called Roth “a courageous, stand-up guy who has changed this whole community."  Soifer made the remarks during a recent retirement party at College Hill that honored Roth’s distinguished teaching career and the impact he has had on Hawai‘i through his committed involvement in civic affairs.

Roth’s publication of “The Price of Paradise,” which detailed inequities in both laws and practices in Hawai‘i, and his scrutiny of the abuse of the trust obligations of former Bishop Estate trustees, have influenced public life and gained national recognition.

The City Council honored Roth with a laudatory resolution that was read by Councilman Ernie Martin, a ’95 Richardson graduate, during the gathering. Martin is chair of the Committee on Budget for the City Council. The Law School’s Student Bar Association passed a similar congratulatory resolution recognizing Roth's service that was read by SBA president Alex Chun ’18.  “We thank you very much,” said Chun. “We’ll miss you.”

In 2000, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin named Roth to a list of “100 Who Made a Difference in Hawai‘i During the Twentieth Century.  Five years later the City of Honolulu’s Centennial Celebration Committee included him on a list of “100 Who Made Lasting Contributions During the City of Honolulu’s First 100 Years.” Roth also received a screen credit for his work as a script consultant for the movie “The Descendants,” which starred George Clooney and won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 2012.  Roth’s skillful treatment of complicated legal issues, particularly in the realms of trust and tax law, gained praise from such publications as Forbes Magazine and The Wall Street Journal.

The retirement party was highlighted by a “magic show” by Roth’s wife, Susie, who has had a part-time career as a clown, as well as a medley of old rock music favorites by “The Casualettes,” an informal singing group that includes a retired judge and a sitting Supreme Court justice, both Richardson graduates.

One of the most touching moments came when Associate Faculty Specialist Kenneth Lawson spoke emotionally of how Professor Roth had helped him regain his foothold in life, after Lawson had become addicted to prescription painkillers and was sentenced to serve prison time. They met when Roth invited Lawson to speak to his law class about his personal experiences, and the ethical issues he faced as a result, and they have become like brothers, said Lawson.

“He helped me when we were down,” Lawson told the assembled faculty and staff members, his voice emotional. “The entire Roth family has been nothing but amazing. They took care of my wife and kids when I was gone . . . And when I got out of the halfway house Randy hired me as a law clerk and gave me my start. I will be eternally grateful.” Lawson now teaches at the Law School and is the co-director of the Hawai‘i Innocence Project.

Professor Roth said he is not yet totally sure about his next step after retirement, but that he is “looking forward to this adventure.” He said his years at Richardson have enriched his life and the lives of his family, and that his teaching has been a labor of love because of the students and his colleagues.

In 1970 Roth earned a BS summa cum laude from Regis College; in 1974 a JD from the University of Denver; and in 1975 an LLM from the University of Miami. During his career at Richardson, he earned many awards, including a Board of Regents’ Excellence in Teaching Award and the Robert W. Clopton Distinguished Community Service Award.  He was named as a Carlsmith Ball Faculty Scholar from 2012-14. He has served as President of the Hawai‘i State Bar Association, Hawai‘i Justice Foundation, Hawai‘i Institute for Continuing Legal Education and Hawai‘i Estate Planning Council. He has also served as Associate Reporter for the Restatement of the Law (Third) Trusts project of the American Law Institute.

In 1993 and again in 1997, Roth was named Civic Leader of the Year, and in 2009 he received the Gandhi, King, Ikeda award from Morehouse College for pursuit of social justice.

Roth joined the Richardson faculty in 1983 after a one-semester visit a year earlier. Before joining Richardson he was an Assistant Professor of Accounting at Metropolitan State College, where he taught full-time while attending law school. He joined the law faculty at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, for one year in 1978, and then was on the law faculty at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, for three and a half years. During his tenure at Richardson he spent a semester as a visiting professor at both the University of Wisconsin and the University of Chicago. 

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