Native Hawaiian law center to be established at UH Manoa School of Law

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Jun 27, 2005

HONOLULU — Dean Aviam Soifer of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa announced recently the school‘s receipt of a federal grant of nearly $600,000 that will establish a Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law at the school.

"This center is absolutely crucial to the mission of the School of Law and it came about only through the strenuous efforts of Senator Daniel K. Inouye and the rest of Hawaiʻi‘s congressional delegation," said Soifer.

Sen. Inouye spoke at the School of Law‘s commencement in 2004, marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark desegregation decision, Brown v. Board of Education. In that commencement speech, Sen. Inouye discussed plans for the center, saying, "It is my hope that this center will serve as an important educational resource as Native Hawaiians and the broader community move forward together to achieve a measure of reconciliation for the loss of Native Hawaiian sovereignty, resulting from the unlawful overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1893."

Since Sen. Inouye‘s announcement last year, Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie (‘76 JD), the center‘s director, and Soifer have worked closely with an advisory board to secure funding and to plan programs for the center. It will focus primarily on education, research, and the preservation of invaluable historical, legal, traditional and customary materials.

The center is committed to doing extensive community outreach work throughout Hawaiʻi. It will also offer new courses and encourage and support Native Hawaiian law students as they pursue legal careers and leadership roles. According to Soifer, "The center will provide a vital opportunity for everyone to deal cogently with complex Native Hawaiian legal issues."

Members of the advisory board include Beadie Dawson (‘81 JD), of counsel at Dwyer, Schraff, Meyer, Jossem & Bushnell; Moses Haia III (‘94 JD), staff attorney at the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation; Summer Kupau (‘04 JD), law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Simeon R. Acoba; Dee Jay Mailer, chief executive officer of the Kamehameha Schools; Jon Osorio, acting director of the UH Mānoa Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies; and former Chief Justice William S. Richardson, the namesake of the School of Law.

According to MacKenzie, who has written extensively about Native Hawaiian rights and has taught at the School of Law as an adjunct professor for many years, "We have a unique opportunity to examine the laws that affect Native Hawaiians critically and to educate our students and the larger community about those laws. The center will preserve aspects of law that respect the Hawaiian culture and spirit as part of our responsibility to the Native Hawaiian community and to future generations."