Jon Van Dyke pushed into new frontiers in his numerous writings, his teachings and his legal practice, focusing on international ocean law, human rights, environmental law, and the rights of Native Hawaiians. He was particularly concerned about peace and reconciliation in Northeast Asia, human rights, the dangers of nuclear energy and its waste, social justice for the disenfranchised, the rights of indigenous peoples, the status of Pacific Islanders, the health and continued viability of the oceans, and protection of the environment.
He worked tirelessly on issues of peace and reconciliation in Northeast Asia, traveling to the Republic of Korea more than 40 times. He wrote extensively about the San Francisco Peace Treaty, Dokdo, maritime delimitations in the East Sea, Yellow Sea and South China Sea, and disputes with North Korea. He published a book with President Seoung-Yong Hong and co-authored articles with Professor Seokwoo Lee. He was an editor for the Korean Journal of International Law and the last issue was dedicated to him as a “true friend of Korea.” His articles have been included in numerous Korean publications.
He also worked on numerous humanitarian causes, including: seeking reconciliation for Native Hawaiians with the United States government; serving with the Law Association for Asia and the Pacific to develop and disseminate a Model Human Rights Charter for the Pacific Island Region; teaching judicial training seminars in Micronesia, Pohnpei, and Chuuk; working to prohibit the dumping of radioactive waste in the South Pacific; representing Micronesians exposed to nuclear atmospheric testing in the United States Court of Claims; and litigating human rights cases on behalf of the victims of human rights abuses.
As a trial and appellate attorney, he represented Native Hawaiians and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in cases involving rights and entitlements and constitutional issues. He represented the people of the Marshall Islands for exposure to atmospheric nuclear testing in the Court of Claims, and served as counsel for the World Wildlife Fund before the Deep Seabed Authority, International Law of the Sea Tribunal.
A cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, and a tenured member of the Hastings School of Law faculty, he came to the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s School of Law in 1976. As an educator, Jon had a fierce passion for teaching and an unwavering commitment to the thousands of students whom he taught, challenged, supported and mentored.
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye declared: “Jon Van Dyke was a legal scholar of the first order and a tireless advocate for Native Hawaiian and civil rights. He believed in the preservation and protection of history and culture, and his research and writings have expanded our understanding of the Constitution and helped change, for the better, the laws that govern our land and sea.”