Pacific Island Legal Institute Reception and Exhibit

Summary of the Pacific Island Legal Institute Exhibit

This exhibit features a history of the Pacific Island Legal Institute, which convenes judges from Pacific Island nations to exchange and build knowledge on legal matters in their region. 

The first part of the exhibit begins with photographs from the first South Pacific Judicial Conference (SPJC), which took place in Apia, Samoa in 1972.  This conference led the way to subsequent gatherings, such as until 2003, when Judges from Pacific Island nations engaged in conversation and debate with American, French, and British judges regarding topics such as judicial independence, criminal law, judicial education, and the relationship between customary law and western law. Each conference's program booklets document the topics discussed and attendees according to year along a timeline across the photographs of the first SPJC.  The materials are from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court Archives,  the University of Hawaiʻi School of Law Libraryʻs Samuel P. King Collection, the Jon Van Dyke Archives, and the Pacific Island Committee Archive.  

The second part of the exhibit then continues to feature the quote of C.J. William S. Richardson stated during the 2nd SPJC in 1975:   

"In the ancient past, our ancestors had frequent contact with each other, but these relations have almost disappeared, and we have become isolated by war and nationalism.  Today, we've chosen to end this isolation, at least in the judicial field, knowing that the peoples of the world could attain peace and harmony by meeting and exchanging ideas regarding our legal systems..."
(Berkley-Coats et al 2009). 

This quote sets the framework for thematic groupings of archival documents discussing the pre-western relations of Pacific Island nations of Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, the Marshall Islands, American Samoa and Hawaii, their colonial jurisdictions, and the post-colonial issues that underlie the exchange between Pacific Island and Western Judges brought together through the SPJC.  Judicial education institutes were seen as an initiative for Pacific Island judges to exchange and develop knowledge about judicial development on their island, as they dealt with ways to balance their own traditional and customary laws with introduced foreign laws and its effects. 

The William S. Richardson School of Law's own Pacific Island Legal Institutes, such as January 2019's week-long program, are an example of the ongoing judicial education efforts to gather lay judges of the Pacific Islands for education in western (American) legal systems, while also being in a cultural context sensitive to Indigenous customary laws and the politics within colonial jurisdictions. A recording of the dialogue across Law Professors, Students, and visiting Judges from Micronesia & American Samoa have been recorded in  Community Testimonies

The materials of this exhibit are from the Law Libraryʻs Samuel P. King, Jon Van Dyke, and the Pacific Island Committee Archival Collections.  

Please view the different themes of the exhibit:

The History of the South Pacific Judicial Conference

C.J. W.S. Richardson's Quote at the Second South Pacific Judicial Conference

Community Testimonies


While this exhibit was designed by Ellen-Rae Cachola, Ph.D., it would not have executed without the assistance of Mia Sen, Robert Landgraf, Carolyn Phapakdy, Gian Lazo, Dat Vo, Taylor Brack and Storm Stoker. Gratitude is also extended to the Law Library Staff, Law School Administration, Minara Mordecai and Dr. Troy Andrade for their collaboration in the program.

Acknowledgements and Bibliography

Media Coverage

Cachola, Ellen-Rae. (2019). "Law Library Features Archives on Pacific Judicial Histories," University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Law Library.