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Long-time Defense Lawyer on Hawaiʻi Island Dies

By Tiffany DeMasters
February 9, 2022, 2:10 PM HST
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One of Hawaiʻi Island’s long-time defense attorneys, Brian J. De Lima, died Tuesday, Feb. 8, his law office confirmed this morning. His cause of death has not yet been confirmed. He was 66 years old.

De Lima’s associate, Jeremy Butterfield said his boss’s death was sudden.

“Yesterday was a day full of denial,” Butterfield said, recalling ‘how could this be? We all just spoke to him in the morning.’

Brian De Lima

De Lima practiced law for nearly 40 years. He established his own practice, Law Offices of Brian J De Lima in Hilo and represented clients from across the island.

“He knew his stuff. He was wicked smart,” Butterfield said.

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Butterfield said De Lima hired him right out of law school in August 2017 in the hopes he’d pass the July bar exam.

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“He had a lot of faith in me,” he said.

Butterfield described De Lima as a great boss and mentor.

“His style of practice was very respectable and honest,” he said. I’m glad I didn’t learn from anyone else. He was an incredible lawyer, very fair.”

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Butterfield said De Lima’s legacy is the honesty in which he practiced law.

“It’s the general notion of being honest, even when you make a mistake,” Butterfield said. “He always admitted when he made a mistake.”

The lawyer said De Lima knew positions in cases could change. He didn’t believe in over litigating anything.

In De Lima’s death, Butterfield said the Hawaiʻi Island community lost one of greatest litigators in Hilo and maybe the Big Island.

“He could solve pretty much any issue,” Butterfield said. “They lost a problem solver. He was a great and fair advocate in divorce and child custody cases.”

U.S. Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele (HI-02) issued a statement regarding the passing of De Lima.

“When it comes to Brian De Lima, many will remember him as a true servant leader. He lived to fight for his community, and provided a voice for those who felt they had none, in particular, as a champion and advocate of children with special needs,” Kahele said. “He served as a member of the Board of Education, Hawaiʻi County Council, and held leadership positions as part of the Democratic party of Hawaiʻi. Maria and I extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, especially his wife Paige, and daughters, Blaise and Blaire. We are forever grateful for his significant contributions to Hawaiʻi. He will be dearly missed.”

Hawaiʻi County Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen, who is De Lima’s cousin, said the Big Island lost someone who had a vested interest in the community.

“Brian was a loving father to his two daughters, a zealous advocate for his clients in the courtroom, and a public servant who worked to make our community a better place including through his involvement as a former Hawaiʻi County Councilmember and member of the Hawaiʻi State Board of Education,” Waltjen said. “He was a mentor to many in our legal community and left a positive impact on so many people. He will be dearly missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to Paige, Blaise, Blaire, and the De Lima ‘ohana.”

Waltjen said De Lima inspired him to go to law school. He interned in his office prior to graduating and after he passed the bar exam.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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