Denise E. Antolini

  • Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
  • Professor of Law
  • Regents’ Medalist for Excellence in Teaching


  • AB magna cum laude Princeton University 1982
  • MPP University of California, Berkeley 1985
  • JD University of California, Berkeley 1986


Professor Denise E. Antolini has served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs since 2011.  She joined the Law School faculty in 1996 and directed the nationally recognized Environmental Law Program for several years.  Since 2006, she has spearheaded the Law School Building Excellence Project.  She serves on the State Water Commission Nominating Committee (2013), was the inaugural Chair of the Honolulu City Council’s Clean Water and Natural Lands Commission, and is past Chair of the State Environmental Council.  Her courses have included torts, environmental law, environmental litigation, domestic ocean and coastal law, and legal writing.  She received the 2006 University of Hawai`i Board of Regents' Excellence in Teaching Medal.  She served as Chair of the American Association of Law School’s Environmental Law Section and, from 2005 until 2008, was on the ABA’s Standing Committee on Environmental Law.  Dean Antolini is past chair of the Hawai`i State Bar Association's Natural Resources Section and was selected by Hawai`i Women Lawyers as the 2002 recipient of the Distinguished Community Service Award.

She grew up in the country in Santa Cruz, California.  Her mother was an elementary school teacher and her father owned and operated the family masonry supply business.  She graduated from Harbor High School in 1978; Princeton University in 1982; obtained a Masters in Public Policy at UC Berkeley (1985) and concurrently a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, UC Berkeley in 1986, where she was editor-in-chief of Ecology Law Quarterly. After a two-year federal district court clerkship in Washington, D.C., she spent eight years practicing public interest law with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now Earthjustice) in Seattle and Honolulu, serving as Managing Attorney of the Honolulu office from 1994 until 1996.  Dean Antolini litigated several major citizen suit environmental cases involving coastal pollution, water rights, endangered species, environmental impact statements, and Native Hawaiian rights.  She served on the legal team that represented the plaintiffs in the PASH (traditional and customary Native Hawaiian rights) decision and was lead counsel on the legal team for the Windward parties in the early stages of the Waiāhole Water case (1993-1995).

After joining the faculty, she served as a member of the State Legislature's Tort Law Study Group (1997-1999) and the PASH Study Group (on Native Hawaiian traditional and customary rights, in 1998). In 2001, she served as Co-Chair of the "Managing Hawai`i's Public Trust Doctrine" Symposium at the University of Hawai`i focusing on the State Supreme Court's August 2000 Waiāhole Water decision. In 2002-2003, she was the principal investigator of a year-long governance study on Hawai`i's Marine Protected Areas for the State of Hawai`i, Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). She then worked under contract to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (National Ocean Service, Office of Coast Survey), to modernize the Coast Pilot 7 for mariners in Hawai`i with new information on environmental, navigational safety, and homeland security statutes and regulations. Additionally, she was part of an inter-disciplinary team at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa charged by the State Legislature in 2008 to conduct a two-year study of the state’s environmental impact review system.

She is the author of “Modernizing Public Nuisance: Solving the Paradox of the Special Injury Rule” (2001) and “Punitive Damages in Reality and Rhetoric: An Integrated Empirical Analysis of Punitive Damages Judgments in Hawaii 1985-2001” (2004). In 2007, she published a co-edited book (with Golden Gate Law Professor Cliff Rechtschaffen) with the Environmental Law Institute called Creative Common Law Remedies for Protecting the Environment. In 2009, she published an article on resolving the dual mandate problem of the National Park system; in 2010, she published a book chapter called “Drowning Hawai‘i” on Hawai`i climate adaptation challenges in Professor Bill Rodgers and Michael Robinson-Dorn’s Climate Change Reader; in 2012, her article on the public participation aspects of the environmental review decisions under the Moon Court was published in the Hawai‘i Law Review.  She is working on a book on Hawai`i environmental law. Her other ongoing research projects include: community governance of marine protected areas; traditional governance of nearshore marine areas; a comparative analysis national marine protected areas in Italy and Europe, focusing on Cinque Terre National Park; and the Hawai`i environmental review process. 

For the 2003-04 academic year, she received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach international environmental law and conduct research as the Distinguished Chair in Environmental Studies in Turin, Italy (Politecnico di Torino, Faculty of Architecture, Urban, Territorial and Environmental Planning), allowing her family the wonderful opportunity to live in Italy for a year. She returned to Italy with her family in Spring 2007 to teach two environmental law and policy courses at an Italian school in Florence, as a Resident Director for the UH Mānoa Study Abroad program, and again in Summer 2009 as Resident Director of the Florence Study Abroad program.

Professor Antolini lives on O'ahu's rural North Shore (Pūpūkea) with her two teenage sons, and enjoys hiking, gardening, and family beach excursions.  She is a founding and current member of the North Shore Community Land Trust (advisory board), the Save Waimea Valley Coalition, and Mālama o Pūpūkea-Waimea (President, 2005-present).


The Moon Court’s Environmental Review Jurisprudence:  Throwing Open the Courthouse Doors for Beneficial Public Participation, 33 Haw. L. Rev. 581 (2011).

Drowning Hawai`i: Island Resiliency and Climate Change, in Bill Rodgers & Michael Robinson-Dorn, Climate Change Reader (Carolina Academic Press 2011).

Karl Kim, Denise Antolini, Peter Rappa, Scott Glenn & Nicole Lowen, Final Report to the Legislature on Hawai‘i’s Environmental Review System (Oct. 2010).

National Park Law in the U.S.: Conservation and Conflict, 33 Wm & Mary Envt’l L. Pol’y Rev. 851 (2009).

Attacking Bananas and Defending Environmental Common Law, 58 Case Western L. Rev.  663  (2008).

Creative Common Law Strategies for Protecting the Environment (Environmental Law Institute 2007) (Cliff Rechtschaffen & Denise Antolini, Eds.).

Marine Reserves in Hawai‘i: A New Call for Community Stewardship, 19 Nat. Res. & Envt.  36 (Summer 2004).

Punitive Damages in Rhetoric and Reality: An Integrated Empirical Analysis of Punitive Damages Judgments in Hawaii, 1985-2001, 20 U. Va. J. Law & Pol.143 (2004).

Modernizing Public Nuisance: Solving the Paradox of the Special Injury Rule, 28 Ecology L. Q. 755 (2001).

Water Rights and Responsibilities in the 21st Century:  A Foreword to the Proceedings of the 2001 Symposium on Managing Hawai‘i’s Public Trust Doctrine, 24 Haw. L. Rev. 1 (2001).

Editor, Proceedings of the 2001 Symposium on Managing Hawai‘i’s Public Trust Doctrine, 24 Haw. L. Rev. 21 (2001).

Finding an Environmental Lawyer and Forming a Non-Profit Organization, in From the Ground Up: A Handbook for Community-Based Land Use Planning, American Planning Association Hawai`i Chapter, Honolulu, Hawai`i (Fall 1999).

A Tribute to Richard S. Miller: Hawai‘i’s Kahuna of Torts, 19 Haw. L. Rev. ix (1997).