Retired justice Yoshimi Hayashi
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Curtis Lum
Yoshimi "Hash" Hayashi, a retired Hawai'i Supreme Court justice who was the first person to serve on all four levels in the state court system, died April 23. He was 83.
Hayashi may be best known as an associate justice for the state's high court, but he also served as a judge on the district, circuit and intermediate appeals courts. He also was a mentor and friend to many of the state's top judges and lawyers.
Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said Hayashi was his "most significant mentor in the courthouse." As a young deputy prosecutor, Carlisle tried two of his first four jury trials before Hayashi.
"He seems to have come from an era when the law seemed to be far more civil and dignified, and so it was easy to listen to his advice," Carlisle said. "He was articulate, and he had a very precise and focused legal mind. He also had the interesting capability of being patient, but also firm. So he was a very commanding presence in the courtroom."
Hayashi also could be stern with the lawyers in his courtroom. Carlisle recalled a time when he was acting up before the judge.
"He once told me outright that I was acting like a child. I quickly evaluated what I was doing, agreed with him that I should have been behaving differently and in no uncertain terms quickly changed my tune," he said.
Hayashi was born in Honolulu on Nov. 2, 1923, and graduated from McKinley High School in 1941. His mother died when he was 4, and he was raised by his grandparents and aunts while his father worked on the Neighbor Islands as a carpenter.
While at the University of Hawai'i, Hayashi enlisted in the military and served with the Varsity Victory Volunteers from 1942 to 1943. He then joined the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team and was assigned to the military intelligence service, serving in the Philippines and Japan.
After being discharged in 1946, Hayashi went to Hilo, where he was caught in the deadly tsunami. His family said that Hayashi survived by holding on to a coconut tree.
Hayashi returned to Honolulu to complete his degree at UH. In 1958, he earned his law degree from George Washington University.
After a year in private practice on Kaua'i, Hayashi began his long career in public service when he served as deputy corporation counsel for Honolulu. Hayashi joined the federal system in 1961, when U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy appointed him as assistant U.S. Attorney for the district of Hawai'i.
In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Hayashi to become the first Japanese-American U.S. Attorney. Hayashi served at that post until 1970.
After two more years in private practice, Hayashi was named a District Court judge in 1972 and then a Circuit Court judge in 1974. When the state Intermediate Court of Appeals was created six years later, Hayashi was appointed as its first chief judge.
In 1982, Gov. George Ariyoshi appointed Hayashi to the Hawai'i Supreme Court as an associate justice. Hayashi served his 10-year term and retired in 1992.
Hayashi's family said he was loyal to his family and friends and especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren.
"Through his life struggles, he developed a deep sense of humility and respect for people of all backgrounds," the family wrote. "Without exception, he treated everyone with respect and courtesy."
Hayashi is survived by his wife, Eleanor; son, Scott; and two grandchildren.
Visitation will be at 5 p.m. May 12 at Hosoi Garden Mortuary; service at 6 p.m.
Reach Curtis Lum at email@example.com.