Nine UH Law grads earn Native Hawaiian Law Certificates

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Derek Kauanoe, (808) 956-0836
Community Outreach Coordinator, Law
Professor Melody MacKenzie, (808) 956-0828
Assoc. Prof., Ka Huli Ao Director, Law
Posted: May 14, 2012

2012 Native Hawaiian Law Certificate Graduates
2012 Native Hawaiian Law Certificate Graduates
Nine law students from diverse backgrounds graduated with Native Hawaiian Law Certificates from the William S. Richardson School of Law at its annual spring graduation on Sunday, May 13, 2012, at Andrews Amphitheatre.  

Prior to enrolling in law school in 2009, Elwen Freitas worked as a Hawaiian-language immersion teacher at Pūʻōhala Elementary School in Kaneʻohe.  Kaleo Nacapoy came to the law school after receiving his Bachelor degrees in Psychology and Hawaiian language.  Before moving to Hawaiʻi, Robyin Pfahl lived in Montana, where she worked as a Family & Restorative Justice Program Coordinator.  Nichole Thomas was an archaeologist before enrolling at Hawaiʻi’s only law school and sought the certificate to continue her work on cultural preservation.  

The Native Hawaiian Law Certificate requires the successful completion of certain courses that range from Native Hawaiian Rights to Administrative Law and also requires clinical work and a writing component.  This is the third year that the stand-alone certificate has been awarded. Previously, law students could only specialize in Native Hawaiian Law under the Pacific-Asian Legal Studies certificate.  

Upon thinking about his most memorable certificate course, Student Bar Association President and certificate-earner Tyler Gomes commented, “It's a tie between Native Law & Policy and Law & Policy of Native Economies. They were such out-of-the-box classes taught by two really great people.”  Among Gomes’ accolades this year were two First Place national awards. Gomes won First Place Best Oralist at this year’s National Native American Law Students Association’s annual moot court competition.  With a partner, Gomes also took First Place in the Best Advocate category, an overall-competition award.

When Adam Roversi, a third-year law student and a Hanalei Canoe Club paddling coach, was asked how he might apply what he’s learned through the certificate program to his law practice, Adam responded, “I hope that I carry a de facto level of respect for and deference to Native Hawaiian culture into every case that I am involved with, regardless of whether it deals explicitly with Native Hawaiian issues.” Soon after his first year of law school, Adam authored the Kuleana Property Tax Exemption Handbook while working with the Hawaiʻi Community Stewardship Network.  

Other certificate-earning students are Michael Howell, Kauilehuamelemele "Lehua" Ka‘uhane, and Mari Tsukayama.  

“We’re very proud to have played a role in the development of these future lawyers, leaders, and advocates,” commented Associate Professor and Ka Huli Ao Director Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie.  MacKenzie further added, “These students will become lawyers who have had a formal education in classes that include Native Hawaiian law, federal Indian law, and the Legal History of Hawai’i, as well as practical experience in helping the community in quiet title actions and on water issues.”  

Established with federal funding in 2005 at the William S. Richardson School of Law, Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law 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.
(Photo caption) Top row: Tyler Gomes, Mari Tsukayama, Elwen Freitas.  Middle row: Kaleo Nacapoy, Adam Roversi, Lehua Ka'uhane.  Bottom row: Michael Howell, Nichole Thomas, Robyn Pfahl.