Faculty & Staff




Professor of Law
Director, University of Hawaiʻi Elder Law Program
Adjunct Professor of Geriatric Medicine & Psychiatry, John A. Burns School of Medicine
The Hung Wo & Elizabeth Lau Ching Foundation Award for Faculty Service to the Community
Robert W. Clopton Award for Distinguished Service to the Community
Regents' Medalist for Excellence in Teaching


AB, Georgetown University, 1970
JD, Catholic University, 1974


James H. Pietsch joined the law school after first having served on active duty in the US Army Medical Service Corps and the Judge Advocate General’s Corps and subsequently having served as the directing attorney of the Honolulu Elder Law Unit of the Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i. At the law school, he teaches Law, Aging and Medicine, Elder Law Clinic, Health Law and Advanced Health Law (Experiential). He also holds a joint appointment at the John A. Burns School of Medicine where he specializes in teaching issues at the intersection of law, aging, medicine, bioethics and psychiatry.

Professor Pietsch supervises the University of Hawai’i Elder Law Program (UHELP). UHELP provides year-round direct legal services at the law school to socially and economically needy older persons and veterans as well as their caregivers.

Professor Pietsch is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation He has served as the American Bar Association (ABA) Advisor to the Uniform Laws Commission Model Veterans Treatment Court Act Drafting Committee and the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section Liaison to the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel.

Professor Pietsch currently serves on the International Committee of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He previously served pro bono in Iraq, where he helped establish legal aid clinics for vulnerable populations, first as a Special Advisor to the Law and Order Task Force of the Multi-National Force-Iraq and subsequently as a Rule of Law Advisor to the U.S. Embassy Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction Team and Kurdistan Regional Reconstruction Team.


  • The Essential Elder Law Hawai`i Handbook, Including Helpful Forms for Our Akamai Kupuna, Families and Caregivers, Executive Office on Aging, State of Hawai`i Department of Health. (with Lenora H. Lee) (2024).
  • “Training Students, Conducting Research and Engaging with Public Policy at the University of Hawai`i Elder Law Program,” Public Policy & Aging Report, Cambridge Press, Volume 33, Issue 1, 2023.
  • Deciding What Documents I Need —Forms for Elder Law, A Legal Handbook for Hawaii’s Caregivers, Families and Older Persons, Hawaii Justice Foundation. (with Lenora H. Lee) (2023).
  • Deciding To Navigate Elder Care–A Legal Handbook for Hawaii’s Caregivers, Families and Older Persons, Hawaii Justice Foundation. Lenora H. Lee (2022).
  • “Elder Law Hawai`i and the Post COVID-19 Pandemic Transition Period,” Hawaii Bar Journal, June 2021.
  • “The University of Hawaii Elder Law Program (UHELP): Celebrating 30 years of Advocating for Older Persons, their Families, and their Care Providers,” Hawaii Bar Journal, Volume 25, Number 2, February 2021.
  • Deciding What To Do and Why Not Now?–A Legal Handbook for Hawaii’s Caregivers, Families and Older Persons, Hawaii Justice Foundation. (with Lenora H. Lee) (2021).
  • Deciding What Matters—and What to Do, A Legal Handbook for Hawaii’s Caregivers, Families and Older Persons, Hawaii Justice Foundation. (with Lenora H. Lee) (2020). 
  • “The Role of Laws and Lawyers in Helping Avoid Disappointment at the End of Life,”  Hawaii Bar Journal, Vol. 17 No. 13 (2019.)  Part 1 – August 2019.pdf  | ScholarSpace – Part 1 | Part 2 – December 2019.pdf | ScholarSpace – Part 2
  • Chances Are, A Caregiver’s Legal Planner, Including a Kokua Packet, (with Lenora H. Lee) (2017). 
  • “Matters of the Heart—Keeping Pace with Technology and the Law in Deactivation of Cardiac Implanted Devices,” 7 The Elder Law Journal, Volume 25 Number 1, (2017). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Deciding What’s Next —and Trying to Remember, A Legal Handbook for Hawaii’s Caregivers, Families and Older Persons, City and County of Honolulu. (with Lenora H. Lee) (2016). 
  • “Becoming a ‘Dementia-Capable’ Attorney—Representing Individuals with Dementia,” 1 Hawaii Bar Journal, Vol. 17 No. 13 (2015).  | ScholarSpace
  • Deciding What’s Next —and Who in the World Cares? A Legal Handbook for Hawaii’s Caregivers, Families and Older Persons, City and County of Honolulu. (with Lenora H. Lee) (2014).
  • (Book Chapter) “Alternatives to Guardianship and Supported Decision-Making,” Comparitive Perspectices on Adult Guardianship (ed. Kim Dayton), Carolina Academic Press, 2014. PDF | ScholarSpace
  • “Elder Law and Conflicts of Interest in the United States and Canada,”  1192 Penn State Law Review Vol. 117:4 (2013). (with Margaret Hall). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • “Elder Abuse and Laws to Protect Older Persons in Hawaii,” 93 Hawaii Bar Journal, Vol. 16 No. 13 (2013). PDF | ScholarSpace
  • “Expanding Access to Justice for Needy Elderly Through Law School Experiential Programs,” 30 The Elder Law Journal 2, (2013). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • “Elder Law Hawai’i,”  Hawaii Bar Journal, Vol. 13 No. 13 (2012). PDF | ScholarSpace
  • Deciding What’s Next? A Legal Handbook for Hawaii’s Older Persons, Families and Caregivers (Spring 2011) (with Lenora H. Lee). PDF | ScholarSpace
  • “Teaching Elder Law at the University of Hawaii – Integrating Health Law and Cultural Issues into the Curriculum,” 40 Stetson L. Rev. 263 (2010). HeinOnlineScholarSpace
  • “Who’s Afraid of Protecting Older Persons – Addressing the False Illusion of Having to Keep Elder Out of the Abuse Laws,” 16 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol’y 391 (2009). HeinOnlineScholarSpace
  • Deciding What If? A Legal Handbook for Hawaii’s Caregivers, Families and Older Persons (2006) (with Lenora H. Lee). PDF | ScholarSpace
  • “Health Care Decision Making and Physician-Aid-in-Dying in Hawaii,” 25 J. Legal Med. 303 (2004). HeinOnline | Scholar Space
  • “Legal Implications Surrounding Adolescent Health Care Decision-Making in Matters of Sex, Reproduction, and Gender,” 13 Child and Adolescent Psych. Clinics of North America 675 (2004) (with Hazel Glenn Beh) available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2004.02.010.
  • “The Reach of Ethics into the Law,” 13 Business Premium Collection 1 (2001) (with Kenneth Kipnis). ScholarSpace
  • “Response to Difference and the Delivery of Healthcare” (Special Section) (CQ Vol 7, No 1), 9 Cambridge Q. Healthcare Ethics 123 (2000) (with Tom Koch and Kathryn Braun).  HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • “Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) About Hawaii’s New Uniform Health Care Decisions Act (Modified),” 58 Haw. Med. J. 10 (1999). ScholarSpace
  • Cultural Issues in End-of-Life Decision Making,  (eds. Kathryn L. Braun, James H. Pietsch, Patricia L. Blanchette) Sage Publications (1999) 
  • “The Death of the Living Will and the Making of Health Care Decisions Under Hawaii’s New But Not Quite Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act,” 3 Haw. B. J. 29 (1999)
  • The Elder Law Hawai`i Handbook: Protecting Your Health, Wealth, and Personal Wishes, University of Hawaiʻi Press (1998) (with Lenora H. Lee).
  • Akamai Kupuna: A Legal Handbook for Senior Citizens by Senior Citizens Unit, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (1994).

Community Awards

  • The Paul Lichterman Award for outstanding achievement in the advancement of legal services for older persons
  • Na Lima Kokua Award, Hawaii Pacific Gerontological Association
  • The Secretary of the Army Award for Public Service
  • Hawaii Alliance for Retired Americans and Kokua Council Shining Light Award
  • National Association of Social Workers Hawai’i Chapter Friend of Social Work Award

Related News

Prof. James Pietsch – ‘Mr. Elder Law’ – Honored with UH Award for Distinguished Community Service

‘Nite of the Living Will’ at UH Law Library Oct. 26 Offers End of Life Care Planning Info

New Free Handbook Offers Help for Caregivers In Handling Legal and Medical Issues of Aging

Nov. 12-13 Law School Conference Explores Cutting-Edge Issues Facing Elder Veterans

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