Native Hawaiian Law Certificates More than Doubled this Year

The number of Native Hawaiian Law Certificates awarded to graduating Hawaiʻi law students increased to 15 this year compared to 7 in 2010, at the William S. Richardson School of Law.

Media Release:

The 15 awardees are diverse and composed of both Native Hawaiian and non-Native Hawaiian students: Natasha Baldauf, Amy Brinker, Elena Bryant, Maria Carmichael, Amanda Donlin, Mark Jensen, Ha‘aheo Kaho‘ohalahala, Ryan Kanaka‘ole, Sarah Kaopuiki, Kekoa Keiley, Christopher Leong, Ann Otteman, Jeannin-Melissa Russo, Sherilyn Tavares, and Alexa ZenThe certificate’s coursework requirements include Native Hawaiian Rights, Administrative Law, Federal Courts, legal clinics, Federal Indian Law, International Law, Pacific Islands Legal Systems, as well as a research and writing requirement.

In addition to fulfilling the required courses, several law students played meaningful roles in the community and experienced important successes.  Baldauf and Kahoohalahala participated in outreach efforts to 11th grade students at Kula Kaiapuni O Ānuenue, a Hawaiian-language immersion school, this spring, and Hakipu‘u Learning Center, a public charter school, in the fall.  Brinker spearheaded a successful legislative effort to “legalize pa‘i‘ai” through Senate Bill 101, which passed both the state House and Senate and now awaits Governor Abercrcombie’s signature. Carmichael, Jensen, Kaopuiki, Russo and Tavares represented Hawaiʻi at Columbia Law School in New York for a national native moot court competition where team members brought home First and Third Place awards.  Donlin was an intern at KAHEA: the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, two public-interest law firms.  Zen volunteered with attorneys Carl Varady and Tom Grande as they proceed with the Kalima case involving trust claims against the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Hilo-born Sherilyn Tavares described her Environmental Law Clinic as memorable because, “for the first time, a class actually put me back on the land, where I was able to reconnect and make that important connection between what we do in law school classrooms, and what the real world needs are.  It was such a valuable class on so many levels.  It made us accountable to actual people doing work on the ground to preserve our culture and way of life.  It was real and the work was important and gratifying.”

When asked how he’ll apply what he’s learned through the certificate program to his legal practice, Mark Jensen replied, “Without sounding too idealistic, I’d like to think that I will have plenty of opportunities in the public interest field to help advance the interests of Native Hawaiians.”

Jeannin Russo commented that the certificate “is a great accomplishment and it has given me more knowledge of the issues I need to protect and address in my career.”

“Native Hawaiian law is challenging!  I find this subject to be very dimensional, given that it spans both state and federal law, and within that encompasses property law, Indian law, historic preservation, legislative and political work,” is how Alexa Zen described the program.

Amanda Donlin described the writing requirement as memorable and explained, “I wrote my paper on the legal certification of traditional Hawaiian healers.  It was the first time I wrote a paper of that magnitude and I enjoyed the journey.  I even had my paper published in a law journal, something I never dreamed I would ever accomplish.”

The annual spring commencement of the William S. Richardson School of Law awarded 15 students with Native Hawaiian Law Certificates on Sunday, May 15, 2011.

Established with federal funding in 2005 at the William S. Richardson School of Law, Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian is an academic center that promotes education, scholarship, community outreach and collaboration on issues of law, culture and justice for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific and Indigenous peoples.  Law Professor Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie serves as the Director of Ka Huli Ao, and is also among the Law School’s first graduates.

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