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Video Now Available: 100 Years of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act: Legacy, Opportunities, Challenges

Posted on Jun 15, 2021 in Featured News, News & Reports

Video Available Now

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA). Join the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center’s moderated panel discussion to learn about the legacy, opportunities, and challenges of the HHCA. Featuring personal insight from legal practitioners of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) – Summer Sylva (moderator), David Kauila Kopper, Ashley Obrey, and Henderson Huihui – who advocate exclusively on behalf of Native Hawaiian beneficiaries. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions during the concluding Q&A session.

This program was created in partnership with the Ulu Lehua Scholars Program at the William S. Richardson School of Law.

If you require accommodation for a disability, please email info@jhchawaii.net or call us at (808) 539-4999.

* While the Hawaii State Judiciary provides a venue for diverse discussion, the speakers’ remarks do not necessarily represent opinions of the Judiciary.

Panelists

Photo of Summer Lee Haunani Sylva.

Summer Lee Haunani Sylva
Executive Director

Cornell Law School (JD, Public Law Certificate, 2007)
Barnard College-Columbia University (BA, Political Science, 1997)

Ms. Sylva is the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC), Hawaii’s premier Native Hawaiian rights nonprofit law firm. Experienced in litigating before federal and state courts in Hawaii, New York, and New Jersey, Summer oversees six attorneys and seven legal support staff who together handle over 90 active cases representing 400-500+ clients annually. As lead counsel, Summer secured a landmark victory in 2018, ending one of the State’s largest and longest water rights contested case hearings, spanning 17 years. The resulting full and permanent restoration of eight kalo-feeding streams upended century-old status quo diversions that wreaked havoc on East Maui watersheds and all life dependent on them. She continues to represent the East Maui community in ongoing water-related litigation pending before multiple state courts and administrative bodies. She also represented the cultural practitioners who, in 2019, secured a unanimous Hawaii Supreme Court ruling against the State for its failure to protect ceded lands at Pohakuloa from the harmful effects of military training exercises. Summer currently represents native Hawaiian beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands trust seeking to enforce the constitutional mandate to adequately fund the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

 

Photo of David Kauila Kopper.

David Kauila Kopper
Director of Litigation

William S. Richardson School of Law (JD magna cum laude, 2010)
Arizona State University (magna cum laude, 2006)

Mr. Kopper is the Director of Litigation at the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC). He began serving the Native Hawaiian community as an NHLC staff attorney in 2010 as an intake staffer, and has since gone on to lead impact litigation on behalf of individuals, families, and communities. Much of his practice focuses on holding the State and local governments to their trust obligations towards to Native Hawaiians. He has substantial experience litigating Hawaiian entitlement program disputes, including those arising under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and its implementing rules. He has also litigated multiple lawsuits aimed to protect the exercise of traditional and customary practices on Mauna Kea. Currently, Mr. Kopper represents clients in various matters relating to Native Hawaiian rights law, including historic property and burial site preservation, government leases and programs, administrative law and due process rights, protection of traditional and customary practices, and land title and historical native land claims. He has substantial experience before all of Hawaii’s courts and various administrative bodies.

 

Photo of Ashley Kahoʻominoʻaka Kaiao Obrey.

Ashley Kahoʻominoʻaka Kaiao Obrey
Legal Practice Administrator/Staff Attorney

William S. Richardson School of Law (JD, 2009)
Pepperdine University (BA, Journalism, 2005)

Ms. Obrey worked as a Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) staff attorney from 2010 to 2015 and rejoined the litigation team in 2020 after serving as a land asset manager at Kamehameha Schools. Her work at NHLC has included representing clients before courts and administrative bodies on issues related to: the protection of cultural resources and iwi kupuna, traditional and customary practices, as well as the natural resources critical to those practices; the enforcement of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ trust responsibilities, and the application of laws allowing for the amendment of clients’ birth certificates to correctly document their genealogy. Ashley was part of the legal team that secured, on behalf of a cultural descendant, a unanimous Hawaii Supreme Court decision to stop the Honolulu rail project until an archaeological inventory survey was completed for the entire 20-mile rail route, instead of in four phases as originally approved by the State Historic Preservation Division.

 

Photo of Henderson Huihui

Henderson Huihui
Equal Justice Works Fellow/Staff Attorney

William S. Richardson School of Law (JD, Native Hawaiian Law Certificate, 2020)
University of Hawaii at Manoa (BA, Political Science, 2017)

Mr. Huihui is an Equal Justice Works fellow and Staff Attorney with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. A fourth-generation Waimanalo homesteader, Henderson was awarded a two-year national Equal Justice Works fellowship to address the issues and concerns of homesteaders and advocate on their behalf. The objective of Henderson’s fellowship is to provide direct legal services, advocate for policy reform, and foster community partnerships and collaboration. Henderson also provides direct representation to Native Hawaiians in matters involving Hawaiian Home Lands lease disputes, government entitlements, land title and land use law.