Retired Judge James S. Burns, who served more than 30 years on the bench from state district court per diem judge to chief judge of the Intermediate Court of Appeals, died of throat cancer this morning at the Queen’s Medical Center. He was 79.
Hawaii State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said: “Hawaii lost a giant of the law this morning. Jim Burns was a wise and humble man who was always guided by his love of Hawaii and a strong sense of fairness and common sense.”
Burns was known as “The Father of Modern Hawaii Family Law” because of the decisions he wrote, Associate Professor Calvin Pang, a friend and colleague, said in a written statement.
He played a key role in developing contemporary family law and other areas of law in Hawaii in his position as the Intermediate Court of Appeals chief judge.
Burns bore a striking resemblance to his father, the late Gov. John A. Burns.
Gov. David Ige commented how tough it is to be the son of a great man, but he “achieved his own level of greatness,” he said in a written statement.
Judge Burns was also a beloved member of the William S. Richardson School of Law.
He leaves behind his wife Emme Tomimbang, son Brendan and daughter Meredith.