Darolyn Lendio Heim’s resume ranged from pineapple field worker, journalist for The Wall Street Journal, partner in a top Honolulu law firm to state District Court judge.
In addition to the programs she started and participated in as a judge, the Waialua native’s humor, ability to connect with others and heart to serve the public will likely be part of her legacy.
The state Judiciary announced Friday that Lendio Heim, 63, died Thursday. Her husband, Ronald Heim, said her death was unexpected following an illness in late October.
“We are devastated by the loss of Judge Lendio Heim,” Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said in a written statement. “She was an outstanding judge who made a lasting impact on our community, and a wonderful friend and colleague.”
Lendio Heim was appointed to the District Court bench in 2017, and in 2020 was on a short list of candidates for associate justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court. At the time of her death she was serving as lead judge in the District Court’s Civil Division on Oahu. According to the Judiciary announcement, she played a key role in a mediation program to help tenants facing eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic, among many other accomplishments.
“Judge Lendio Heim worked with legislators, lawyers, court staff and other judges to forge a win-win to keep people in their homes while treating landlords fairly,” Recktenwald said.
Lendio Heim, who came from a humble upbringing, took to heart her mother’s emphasis on education, according to William McCorriston of McCorriston Miller Mukai and MacKinnon, where she was once a partner and worked two stints between government positions.
“What’s uncommon about Darolyn is there’s a lot of lawyers with intellectual abilities, but she could combine the local values, a great sense of humor and pragmatism into her legal work and later as judge into what I think is a unique judicial figure in Hawaii,” he said.
“While she enjoyed private practice and was quite good at it, she always had a heart for public service and took substantial pay cuts to work in public service jobs.”
The Waialua High School graduate attended the University of Southern California on a scholarship, graduating with degrees in journalism and political science. Her work as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Los Angeles sparked an interest in law.
After earning a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law, Lendio Heim was admitted to the Hawaii State Bar in 1984 and worked as an associate at Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel. During her legal career, she was appointed by former Mayor Jeremy Harris as director of the city’s Department of the Corporation Counsel and served as vice president for legal affairs for the University of Hawaii.
Lendio Heim also presided over Community Outreach Court, which gives individuals with outstanding warrants or fines for minor offenses a chance to resolve their cases by performing community service. She convened sessions in public libraries and other community sites, sometimes sitting across a folding table from participants.
“Judge Lendio Heim lit up every room, and had a unique ability to relate to people, which made her extraordinarily effective as a judge,” Recktenwald said.
She “never forgot her roots, serving as a role model and mentor to countless individuals, particularly to women and members of the Filipino community,” he added.
Ronald Heim said his wife, who would have celebrated her birthday Monday, was “larger than life and had endless energy” when it came to doing what she believed in.
“She led a very connected life,” he said.
Lendio Heim had visited her two sons in Chicago in October. Cade Brittain, 25, attends the University of Notre Dame law school, and Alex Heim, 21, plays football for Lake Forest College in Illinois.
As news of her death spread, other Hawaii officials quickly shared their condolences.
“She was an amazing person who truly had a heart for public service,” state Senate President Ronald Kouchi (D, Kauai-Niihau) said in a written statement. “Her strong connections to our community and deep knowledge of and respect for the law was what made her a well-respected jurist and beloved member of our community.”
Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D, Mililani-Wahiawa) called Lendio Heim “a fearless leader that never forgot her Waialua roots and was committed to public service and making Hawaii a better place for future generations. She broke glass ceilings and I will greatly miss her.”
Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran (D, Central Maui), a fellow UC-Berkeley law school graduate, said Lendio Heim was a mentor to many who attended law school in California and “a trailblazer and a role model for many women and those in the Filipino community.”
“Judge Lendio Heim will be remembered for her dedication to law, high degree of integrity and willingness to share her wisdom and knowledge with others. And on a personal note, Darolyn was just a good-fun person who loved her family, her friends and USC Trojans football,” Keith-Agaran said.