Jon Van Dyke papers to be unveiled at UH law library

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Feb 26, 2018

Information regarding video for this news release is below

Seven years after renowned University of Hawaiʻi law Professor Jon Van Dyke’s untimely death, his papers dealing with his vast research topics ranging from Pacific disarmament to the law of the sea to Native Hawaiian rights will be available to scholars and law students at the UH Law Library.

Van Dyke was one of Hawai‘i’s most influential legal scholars with an international reputation in ocean, environmental, human rights, constitutional, and Native Hawaiian law.

The UH law library will unveil a searchable database of his 35-year career at a reception on March 4, 2018 from 4 to 6 p.m. The papers include specifics of his lawsuit filed on behalf of victims who suffered under the regime of former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, as well as his work on sea level rise and nuclear waste disposal in the Pacific.

William S. Richardson School of Law Dean Avi Soifer called Van Dyke “a phenomenon.” He explained, “Jon’s far-ranging intellect and his passion for justice benefitted not only our students and his colleagues, but the entire community and many other people far beyond Hawai‘i.”

Associate Professor and Law Library Director Vicki Szymczak said the collection will enhance library offerings by providing an added depth of insight into multiple areas of legal concerns involving the interests of Pacific nations.

“As a law student, I read and studied about Jon Van Dyke's work on the Law of the Sea and his environmental efforts in the Pacific region,” said Szymczak.  “Having the opportunity to see his genius firsthand through his research papers is an amazing experience for me. I hope his archive will also inspire the next generation of legal scholars in the Pacific region.”

The UH Law Library received a grant from the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities to process the papers of Professor Van Dyke, who died November 29, 2011. Ellen-Rae Cachola, UH Law library archives manager and evening library supervisor, is heading the project.

Included among the Van Dyke collection are several series:

  •  Series 1: Who Owns the Crown Lands?: This broad sweep of research covers research for his book  with that title as well as legal documents relating to this subject such as the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy,  Akaka Bill, Apology Resolution, Blood Quantum, Rice v. Cayetano, Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, water rights and much more.

  • Series 2: Ferdinand Marcos Human Rights Litigation. Includes legal documents and research related to successful litigation, with his wife attorney Sherry Broder, against the estate of former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos for human rights violations committed against Filipino citizens during the Marcos regime.

  • Series 3: Pacific Island Judiciary Development. His work advocating for territorial rights, sovereignty, and judicial development of various Pacific Islands and their inhabitants, including Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Johnston/Kalama Atoll, Kermadec Islands, Kosrae, Minerva, Tonga, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

  • Series 4: Ocean Law. Van Dyke helped shape the discourse around Ocean Law as a member of many organizations involved with the development of the Law of the Sea, including: the International Law Association (ILA)- Law of the Sea, Dividing Up the Ocean/Oxford, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme Convention; the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Council on Ocean Law; and others. He did case studies on specific places involved in Ocean Law issues, including Bosnia, Greece, and Turkey and the Aegean Sea, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the Philippine Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA), and many more.

Researchers will be welcome to make an appointment to gain access to the collections. Ask for assistance by calling: (808) 956-2867.


Video news release

Link to video and sound (details below):

WHO: Vicki Szymczak (pronounced “Shim Chak”), University of Hawaiʻi law library director

WHAT: Announcing new searchable database of late UH Law Professor Jon Van Dyke’s lifelong research on ocean law, crown lands, Ferdinand Marcos’ human rights litigation, Pacific Island judiciary development and other legal issues. Explanation of the papers’ preservation process, which includes freezing of documents.

WHEN:  Unveiling and reception commemorating his 35 years of legal research, Sunday, March 4, 2018, 4-6 p.m.

WHERE: UH Law Library, UH Mānoa campus

WHY: Collection will be accessible to law students and scholars


  • Van Dyke was an internationally renowned scholar and teacher of environmental, constitutional, international and ocean rights law; and the rights of Native Hawaiians and indigenous peoples.  

  • The preservation and processing of his legal writings and work entailed freezing the papers to eliminate microbes, bugs, bacteria or mold; time-consuming individual scanning of the documents; then storage in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes in an intensive chilled storage unit.

  • The Hawaiʻi Council for Humanities provided a grant for the processing of the papers, which began in May 2017.



B-ROLL: (2 minutes, 10 seconds)

0:00-0:22, 4 shots: opening boxes of Jon Van Dyke’s work

0:22-0:39, 3 shots: stored acid-free boxes of faculty documents

0:39-0:47: papers stored in the freezer

0:47-0:59, 2 shots: storyboard of the process of preparing the Jon Van Dyke Archive for public access

0:59-1:05: external shot of the William S. Richardson School of Law library

1:06-1:18, 2 shots: Jon Van Dyke speaking in past lectures

1:19-2:10, 13 clips: photos of Jon Van Dyke


Vicki Szymczak (pronounced “Shim Chak”), UH law library director

(On the value and legacy of Jon Van Dykeʻs work)

(15 seconds)

A lot of Jon Van Dyke’s work continues today, so a lot of the issues – regarding environmental law, the rights of indigenous peoples and the Pacific Islands – is still work that is being taken on by new scholars.

(15 seconds)

It was very easy to read his work. He had a tremendous ability for breaking down complex issues so that other people could understand, who were not versed in the law but were just learning about these issues.

(On preserving documents once they enter the library)

(12 seconds)

The best way to eliminate it (mold, bugs) is to freeze the documents for a period of time to ensure that any living organisms are killed, and then the documents never leave the building again.

(10 seconds)

Once they are removed from the freezer, they are indexed and tabbed, and placed into acid-free folders and acid-free boxes.

(14 seconds)

The permanent resting place for the documents is our intensive storage room, which has a separate chilling unit apart from the library to ensure that it always maintains a certain temperature level and a certain humidity level.