More than 100 law students to compete in national competition at Law School

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Derek Kauanoe, (808) 956-0836
Faculty Specialist, School of Law
Posted: Jan 25, 2012

Law students representing 28 law schools will argue for and against native political recognition, as well as a native government’s right to determine its membership, when they compete in the 20th annual National Native American Law Students Association’s moot court competition.  The upcoming competition, hosted at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa's William S. Richardson School of Law, will take place on February 24-25, 2012.  A symposium on the issues highlighted in the problem will take place the day after the competition on Sunday, February 26, 2012.

UH Mānoa Law Associate Professor and Director of Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, Melody K. MacKenzie authored the competition problem. Three outside reviewers also reviewed the problem to ensure its fairness and accuracy.  Designed to simulate the practice of law, the annual event requires competing law students in two-person teams to conduct research and write legal briefs, without assistance from professors or others, and argue against other student teams at the competition.  

Participating law schools include Arizona State University, Columbia, Cornell, UCLA, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington, and 22 others.

Competition organizers are hoping to recruit more attorneys to serve as competition judges over the two-day event.  The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is a lead sponsor of the event.  

Hawai`i’s only law school last hosted this competition in 2000 shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Rice v. Cayetano.  That case resolved whether non-Hawaiians may vote in elections for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. 

“We’re very excited to host the 20th annual event and to have so many competitors.  Its an opportunity to focus on some of the issues important to the Native Hawaiian community and to educate law students and attorneys across the U.S. about those matters,” noted Derek Kauanoe, an event organizer.

UH Mānoa law students have consistently made a strong showing at the annual event.  Last year, Columbia Law School in New York hosted the competition where Keani Alapa and Maxwell Kopper, then-UH Manoa law students, captured First Place in the Best Advocate category.  As the overall winners of the competition, Alapa and Kopper made oral arguments over a two-day period, winning in the final round. 
Additionally, UH Mānoa law student Elika Otoya-Stimpson tied for Third Place in the Best Oralist category. UH Mānoa also represented one-fourth of the top 16 teams in the first elimination round. Altogether, UH Mānoa law students have participated in 15 of the 19 previous competitions and have won 23 awards.  

More information is available on the competition web page at

For more information, visit: