Faculty & Staff

D. Kapuaʻala Sproat – Director and Professor of Law

Kapuaʻala Sproat is a Professor of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi’s William S. Richardson School of Law and the Director of Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law.  Professor Sproat teaches doctrinal and clinical courses in Native Hawaiian and environmental law and legal writing, including the law school’s only live-client clinic that addresses both Native Hawaiian and environmental issues while also providing direct legal services to rural, Neighbor Island communities.  In 2014, Professor Sproat received the Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching, the University of Hawaiʻi’s highest teaching award.  Her areas of scholarship and interest include Native Hawaiian law, water law, Indigenous rights, climate justice, the public trust doctrine, and natural resource protection and management.  She is an Executive Editor and author of multiple chapters in NATIVE HAWAIIAN LAW: A TREATISE. – the world’s first Indigenous law treatise.  Professor Sproat has a special interest in co-powering and supporting Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) culture and communities and works to preserve the resources necessary to perpetuate her culture.  She and her husband Kahikūkalā Hoe have two boys:  Olamaunāpuaokalāhui and Uluponoikamakanikēwaiakekiliua.

Susan K. Serrano – Associate Director and Professor of Law

Susan Serrano is the Director of Faculty Research, Professor of Law, and Associate Director of Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law. She teaches Pacific Island Legal Systems; Race, Culture and the Law; Lawyering Fundamentals I; and Second Year Seminar. Serrano’s work focuses particularly on the impacts of U.S. colonialism on Native Peoples and the peoples of the U.S. territories. She also publishes in the areas of critical race theory, Native Hawaiian law, civil rights and liberties, and Puerto Ricans and U.S. law. She is an Executive Editor of Native Hawaiian Law: A Treatise (MacKenzie, Serrano & Sproat eds., 2015). Her most recent scholarship includes: A Social Healing Approach to Native Hawaiian Claims: Law and Resistance at Maunakea, 52 Sw. L. Rev. 50 (2022); Reframing Environmental Justice at the Margins of U.S. Empire, 57 Harv. CR-CL L. Rev. 475 (2022); and Reparative Justice in the U.S. Territories: Reckoning with America’s Colonial Climate Crisis, 110 Cal. L. Rev. 1281 (2022) (with Ian Falefuafua Tapu). Prior to joining Ka Huli Ao, Serrano was a Staff Attorney at the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, California; she was the founding Research Director of the Equal Justice Society; and she served as the Thurgood Marshall Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining the Lawyers’ Committee, she clerked for Associate Justices Robert G. Klein and Mario R. Ramil of the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court. She is a 1998 graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law.

A. Uʻilani Tanigawa Lum – Assistant Professor of Law

Originally from Makawao, Maui, Uʻilani Tanigawa Lum is a hula practitioner and an Assistant Professor of Law.  Most recently, Uʻi served as a Lecturer-in-Law and Post-Juris Doctor Fellow at Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law.  Prior to that, Uʻi worked at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Hawaiian Studies from UH Mānoa’s Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. Together with her husband, Uʻi founded Kāhuli Leo Leʻa, a non-profit organization dedicated to catalyzing aloha ʻāina through mele and other cultural practices.  She also serves on the Board of Maui United Way as well as the Secretary for Hawaiʻi Land Trust.  Uʻi now resides in ʻĀhuimanu, Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu with her ʻohana.

Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie – Professor of Law Emerita

Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie, Founding Director and Professor of Law

Professor MacKenzie is the Founding Director and Professor Emerita at Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. After receiving her law degree, Professor MacKenzie served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William S. Richardson of the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court. She then joined the staff of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, a public interest law firm protecting and advancing the rights of Native Hawaiians, and served as its Executive Director and as a senior staff attorney. Professor MacKenzie is editor-in-chief and author of four chapters in Native Hawaiian Law: A Treatise. She is also a contributor to the most recent edition of Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian LawHer latest articles include A Collective Memory of Injustice: Reclaiming Hawaiʻi’s Crown Lands Trust in Response to Judge James S. Burns (co-authored with Prof. D. Kapuaʻala Sproat); Ke Ala Loa – The Long Road: Native Hawaiian Sovereignty and the State of HawaiʻiKe Ala Pono – The Path of Justice: The Moon Court’s Native Hawaiian Rights Decisions; and Hawaiian Custom in Hawaiʻi State Law. She has worked on cases asserting Hawaiian traditional and customary rights, dealing with quiet title and land issues, and defending the constitutionality of Native Hawaiian programs. In 2013, Professor MacKenzie was awarded the University Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching and, most recently, she served as Acting Dean of the Law School in Fall 2017. She continues to support with teaching Native Hawaiian Rights, Federal Indian Law, topics in Native Hawaiian Law, and legal writing courses.

Dr. Kamanamaikalani Beamer – Professor of Law, Professor of Hawaiian Studies

Dr. Kamanamaikalani Beamer is a professor at the Center for Hawaiian Studies in the Hui ‘Āina Momona Program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with a joint appointment in the Richardson School of Law and the Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.  Previous to this role Dr. Beamer was the president and chief executive officer of The Kohala Center. Beamer has revitalized and maintained lo‘i kalo (taro ponds), providing him and his children opportunities to mālama ‘āina, deepen connections with cultural traditions, and derive leadership lessons from the land. In 2013 he was nominated and confirmed to a four-year appointment on Hawai‘i’s Commission of Water Resource Management and was reconfirmed in 2017 for an additional four-year term. In addition to numerous academic publications, in 2014 Beamer published No Mākou ka Mana: Liberating the Nation, which received multiple awards including the Samuel M. Kamakau Book of the Year Award from the Hawai‘i Book Publishing Association.

Malia K.H. Akutagawa – Associate Professor of Law, Associate Professor of Hawaiian Studies

Malia Akutagawa is an Associate Professor of Law and Hawaiian Studies with both the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge – Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies and the William S. Richardson School of Law. Malia earned Baccalaureate degrees in Philosophy and Biology from Whitworth University in 1993. Malia is a 1997 alumnus of the William S. Richardson School of Law, having earned a Juris Doctor and Environmental Law Certificate. She was admitted into the Hawaiʻi State Bar Association in 1998. Malia is part of Hui ʻĀina Momona, a consortium of scholars throughout the university community charged with addressing compelling issues of indigenous Hawaiian knowledge and practices, including the legal regime and Native Hawaiian rights associated with mālama ʻāina, and with focus on cross-disciplinary solutions to natural and cultural resource management, sustainability, and food security.

R. Tereariʻi Chandler-ʻĪao – Post J.D. Fellow

Rhiannon Tereari’i Chandler-‘Īao earned her B.A. in Ethnic Studies from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 2004 and graduated from the William S. Richardson School of Law in 2016 with certificates in both Native Hawaiian and Environmental Law. After graduating, she worked as a Post-JD Research & Teaching Fellow at Ka Huli Ao from 2016-2017 and returned to Ka Huli Ao from 2018-2019, and 2021-present, co-teaching the Native Hawaiian Rights and Environmental Law Clinics. Prior to attending law school, Tereari‘i served as the Executive Director of the environmental non-profit Community Work Day Program, d.b.a. Mālama Maui Nui.  While on Maui, she served as a member of the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, Maui County Cultural Resources Commission, a board member of the Maui Non-Profit Directors Association and a Steering Committee member of Ka Ipu Kukui Fellows Leadership Program.  She most recently served as the Executive Director of Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands where she channeled her past experiences into present efforts to protect and preserve natural resources.

J. Hōkū Kubota Chun – Post J.D. Fellow

Hōkū is from Waiohuli and Pukalani, Maui. She is a Post-JD Law Fellow with Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (“DHHL”). As a Post-JD Law Fellow, Hōkū plans and facilitates community events and outreach, including the I Mana I Ka Wai Water Law and Advocacy Trainings. She is also an attorney and graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law. Hōkū is a former Social Worker and received both her Master of Social Work and Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Outside of work, Hōkū enjoys cooking and baking for her three young children and ʻohana.

Alexa Deike – Post J.D. Fellow

Originally from Wiesbaden, Germany, Alexa is a 2021 graduate of the advanced Juris Doctor program at the William S. Richardson School of Law with a certificate in Native Hawaiian Law and Environmental Law.  She received her first law degree from the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Bonn, Germany, and passed the First State Exam.  Alexa returned to law school to focus her studies on water law, traditional and customary Native Hawaiian rights, and Environmental Law.  During law school, she was a Research Assistant to Professor Eric K. Yamamoto, a Ka Huli Ao and Island Girl Fund Summer Fellow in Native Hawaiian Law, and an extern with the Commission on Water Resource Management. J.D., William S. Richardson School of Law 2021; J.D., Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn 2007.

Keiralyn Pease – Faculty Support Specialist

Keira graduated from Anna Maria College in 1999 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies. She has recently worked for the Department of the Attorney General for the State of Hawaii from 2012-2019 with two-years in between from 2015-2016 as a Division Secretary for the DBEDT/Energy Office.