Jeffrey S. Portnoy


Jeff is a partner practicing in the area of litigation. He previously served as Chair of the firm’s Litigation Department, and has practiced law as a civil litigator at the firm since 1972.

Jeff has extensive litigation and alternative dispute resolution experience in several areas of substantive law, including insurance, employment, mass tort, product liability, media, securities, and medical and legal professional errors and omissions.

Jeff currently serves as Treasurer for the Ninth Circuit Historical Society. He was President of the Hawaii State Bar Association in 2007. He is also a past President of the Hawaii Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, and he served a three year term as Hawaii’s representative to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Advisory Board.

Jeff has served two three-year terms as a Lawyer Representative to the Ninth Circuit, and was Chairman of the United States District Court Advisory (Biden) Committee. He also served as a Hawai‘i State Per Diem Judge and was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Hawai‘i teaching media law for several years. He is a member of the Hawaii ABOTA chapter. Jeff has served as the Hawaii State Representative to the Defense Research Institute. He has also served as the Hawaii State Bar Association’s representative to the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates. He is presently a vice chair of the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents.

He has been named Best Lawyers® Lawyer of the Year for Legal Malpractice Law – Defendants (2016), Bet-the-Company Litigation (2013), and Insurance Law (2011).  He has also been recognized by Best Lawyers in America in several practice areas, including Commercial Litigation, Litigation – First Amendment, Insurance Law, Legal Malpractice Law – Defendants, Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants, Litigation – Labor and Employment, and Bet-the-Company Litigation.  Jeff is listed in Who’s Who in America, and he has been the recipient of several local and national awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists’ First Amendment Award, and the Exceptional Performance Award from the Defense Research Institute. Among other state and national recognitions, he has been selected as one of the leading litigators in Hawaii by Chambers USA and several other publications. In 2016, he was recognized as the top Civil Litigation Lawyer by Hawaii Super Lawyers List.

His media clients have included the Honolulu Advertiser, Honolulu Star Advertiser, Honolulu Publishing, Pacific Business News, Hawaii Tribune Herald, West Hawaii Today, KGMB, KITV, KHON, Clear Channel Communications, New York Post.

In his spare time, he has served as President of Manoa Valley Theatre’s Board of Directors for 25 years and is the color analyst for University of Hawaii basketball on ESPN 1420. Jeff has served as visiting Professor of Law at the Debrecen School of Law, Debrecen, Hungary, in Tartu, Estonia, and in Warsaw, Poland.


  • J.D. (1972), Duke University School of Law
  • B.A. (1969), Syracuse University

Awards and Honors

  • Listed in Best Lawyers®, since 1993
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rated, since 1984
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent® Rating Judicial Edition, 2019
  • Who’s Who in America
  • Who’s Who Legal: USA – Commercial Litigation 2006 – 2015
  • Who’s Who Legal: Management Labour & Employment – 2015
  • Benchmark Litigation: Local Litigation Star, Since 2013
  • American Society of Legal Advocates – Top 100 Litigation Lawyers in Hawaii 2015 – 2016
  • Best Lawyers®Lawyer of the Year for 2016 – Legal Malpractice Law-Defendants
  • Best Lawyers®Lawyer of the Year for 2013 – Bet-The-Company Litigation
  • Best Lawyers®Lawyer of the Year for 2011 – Insurance Law
  • The Best Lawyers in America
    • Commercial Litigation
    • Litigation – First Amendment
    • Insurance Law
    • Legal Malpractice Law- Defendants
    • Personal Injury Litigation- Defendants
    • Litigation – Labor and Employment
    • Bet-the-Company Litigation
  • Selected by Mayor Peter Carlisle to serve on City & County of Honolulu Ethics Commission
  • Selected by Governor Neil Abercrombie to serve on Judicial Selection Commission 2011 – 2017
  • Super Lawyers 2008 – 2019
  • Chambers USA America’s Leading Business Lawyers 2003-2016
  • State Leadership Award – Defense Research Institute – 1999
  • Society of Professional Journalists – First Amendment Award – 1995
  • Exceptional Performance Award – Defense Research Institute – 1991 and 1993
  • Elected to Membership – International Association of Defense Counsel – 1991
  • Freedom of the Press Award – Society of Professional Journalists Hawai‘i Chapter – 1983


  • Supreme Court of Hawaii and Supreme Court of the United States
  • State Courts of the State of Hawaii
  • USDC for the District of Hawaii
  • USDC for the Northern Mariana Islands and the Northern District of California
  • Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals


  • Treasurer for the Ninth Circuit Historical Society
  • Hawaii Representative to ABA House of Delegates – 1994-1996; Member, Bench Bar Conference)
  • American Bar Association (Member, ABA Forum Committee on Communications; Former Vice Chair, Media, Privacy and Defamation Law, ABA Tort & Insurance Practice)
  • Hawaii Defense Lawyers Association (Past President)
  • Defense Research Institute (Past Hawaii Chair; awarded their Ambassador Award)
  • United States District Court Advisory Committee (Past Chairman)
  • Two three-year terms as Lawyer Representative to the Ninth Circuit
  • Former Hawaii Representative to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Advisory Board
  • Elected to American Board of Trial Advocates
  • United States District Court Magistrate Selection Panel (Chairman – 1990)
  • Board of Directors of the Manoa Valley Theatre (President)
  • Board of Directors of the Hawaii International Film Festival (Former President)
  • Honolulu Neighborhood Commission (Former Chairman)
  • University of Hawaii Basketball color analyst on ESPN 1420
  • University of Hawaii, Department of Journalism/Media Law (Adjunct Professor, 1985-1992)
  • Hawaii Supreme Court Disciplinary Board (Director)
  • Media Defense Resource Council (Member)
  • The Hawaii Labor Letter (Former Editor-in-Chief)
  • University of Hawaii Law School Dean Search Committee
  • University of Hawaii Board of Regents
  • Adjunct Professor – William S. Richardson School of Law – Constitutional Law (advanced) 2016 to 2018
  • Director – American Cancer Society, Hawaii Chapter
  • Communications Lawyer, The Journal of Media, Information, and Communications Law, To Attack or Not to Attack, Vol. 26, No. 3, 23-24,  Jul. 2009.
  • New Forums Press, Inc., Mass Communication Law in Hawaii (1994)
  • Hawaii Chapter – Libel Defense Resource Center 50 State Survey – 1982 to present. Media Privacy and Related Law
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press – Manual on Access to Government – Hawaii Chapter
  • Western Newspaper Publishing Co., The Lum Court and the First Amendment, University of Hawaii Law Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, 393-420
  • Speaker, teacher and author at numerous programs and seminars on media law, employment law, personal injury law, trial tactics, and commercial litigation.