Ronette M. Kawakami '85

  • Associate Dean for Student Services
  • Lecturer in Law


  • BA University of Hawai`i at Mānoa 1982
  • JD William S. Richardson School of Law 1985

Ronette M. Kawakami is the Associate Dean of Student Services.  She is a 1985 graduate of the WSRSL and joined the Law School Administration in 2013 after serving 26 years with the State Office of the Public Defender.  As a Senior Deputy Public Defender, she completed approximately 100 felony jury trials in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit and she appeared in 6 oral arguments before the Hawai’i Supreme Court.  Her administrative experience included supervising the Appellate Division and the Felony Trials Division of the Public Defender’s Office.  Her duties included supervision of 35 trial attorneys and overseeing writing, researching and the preparation of oral argument.  She also served as a legislative liaison between 1997 and 2004, responsible for writing testimony and appearing before the Senate and House Judiciary committees and other legislative committees on issues relevant to criminal defense and the criminal justice system.

As an Adjunct Professor of Law, Ronnie co-taught the law School’s Defense Clinic from 2000-2012 and was recognized as Adjunct Professor of the Year in 2003 and 2010.  She also served as Director and Secretary of the Hawai'i State Bar Association (HSBA) from 2000-2013, serving on various committees related to the practice of law in Hawai’i, including the American Judicature Society (AJS) Hawaii Chapter, Special Committee on the Jury.  She was recently a member of the Hawai’i Supreme Court Committee on Equality and Access to the Courts and a frequent speaker and trainer in the schools and for lawyers and others involved in the judicial system.  While doing all of this, she has raised three children, been an active alumna of the Law School, and is a 20-year Ete Bowl veteran.

Ronette is a 1977 graduate of Leilehua high school, and she earned a B.A in English at the UH in 1982, where she served on the Board of Publications.  She also picked pineapple for Del Monte and assisted the lead English teacher in a program for underprivileged students entering UH.  Beyond her work as a Deputy Public Defender, Ronette has volunteered for varied roles within the legal community and has been invited to speak and provide training for many public and private organizations.  Outside the legal community, she has volunteered with the Kau-Kau wagon, providing meals to the homeless at A’ala park, and she volunteers regularly with the KAC youth basketball league at registration and as a coach.

Ronette is the parent of a son who is a Sergeant in the United States Air Force, and two teenage daughters. She enjoys sports, music and supporting her children in their education and sports activities.