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New Director Appointed to UH Law’s Native Hawaiian Law Center
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Summary: The University of Hawaii Law School named a new director of their Native Hawaiian Law Center.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa named a new director of their Law Center. Associate Professor D. Kapua’ala Sproat was put in charge of the Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law at the Williams S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The Ka Huli Ao center was founded “to promote education, scholarship, community outreach and collaboration on issues of law, culture and justice for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific and Indigenous people,” according to a report from the law school. The new associate director will be associate faculty specialist Susan K. Serrano, according to the announcement from Law Dean Avi Soifer.


Sproat specializes in Native Hawaiian law, natural resource protection and management, and indigenous rights. As an authority on Hawaii water rights, she has played a key role at the law school in the Environmental Law Program and Ka Huli Ao. Four years ago, she received a Board of Regents’ “Excellence in Teaching Award,” according to Big Island Now. The award recognized her outstanding teaching record and countless contributions to the community and University of Hawaii.

Sproat is replacing Ka Huli Ao founder, Professor Melody MacKenzie. MacKenzie will be stepping down to give her 1,400-page treatise an update, the Native Hawaiian Law: A Treatise. She will also be handling several other projects and taking on teaching responsibilities. MacKenzie wrote and edited the treatise, which took 15 years, with help from Sproat and Serrano. It provides a comprehensive overview and historical background on Native Hawaiian law in relation to U.S. and international law.

MacKenzie also served as Acting Dean of the Law School recently when Soifer was on sabbatical leave at New York University. In his announcement, Soifer recognized MacKenzie for her extraordinary work as the director since its founding in 2005 and during her time as Acting Dean. He acknowledged Sproat and Serrano for their support in helping to make Ka Huli Ao successful. He said, “Ka Huli Ao has become a vital part of the Law School, and the many contributions of these three women to us and to the larger community cannot be overstated.”

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MacKenzie plans to co-teach a three-credit course over the next two months alongside Walter Echo–Hawk titled, “Comparative Indigenous Rights.” Echo-Hawk is a Native American attorney, tribal judge, law professor and author.

Serrano will oversee projects for Ka Huli Ao in addition to teaching legal practice and Second Year Seminar. The projects include the organizations research and scholarship program and Post-JD Research Fellowship Program. She will also aid in the communications of the organizations, including their e-newsletter. Serrano was a special projects attorney at the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco before joining the University of Hawaii’s law school.

Sproat was born and raised on the North Shore of Kauai in Kalihiwai. She is a member of the Akana and Sproat ‘ohana on Kauai and Kohala on Hawaii Island.

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To learn more about the University of Hawaii’s Law School, read these articles:




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