D. Kapua‘ala Sproat has been named Associate Director of the Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law. The Center, headquartered at the William S. Richardson School of Law, specializes in teaching and producing scholarship about Hawaii’s unique culturally based legal framework.
Sproat is a UH Manoa associate professor of law who has won numerous awards as a teacher and scholar. Her particular expertise is in the complex realm of water rights.
In 2014, she was a Regents’ Medalist for Excellence in Teaching, the University of Hawaii’s highest award for teaching. She also was named an Outstanding Professor at Richardson Law School in 2013.
Last year, Sproat was singled out for the Distinguished Environmental Law Education Award for Emerging Scholars by the Academy of Environmental Law of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. During the IUCN’s recent World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, she was tapped to offer her expertise as a speaker for the global conference that drew more than 10,000 delegates to Hawaii from 192 nations.
Sproat recently co-published a 1,400-page research volume on Native Hawaiian law that touches on everything from traditional and customary rights to self-determination to securing land titles and water rights. The volume, titled Native Hawaiian Law: A Treatise, was co-edited and largely written by Ka Huli Ao Director Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie–with Sproat and Susan K. Serrano as executive editors. The book offers a comprehensive overview as well as historical background for Native Hawaiian law as it relates to state, federal and international law.
Dean Avi Soifer said Sproat’s decision to help lead Ka Huli Ao is a significant step in what is already a remarkable career. “People tend to think that Kapua can do anything, and that may be accurate,” Soifer said. “She is a demanding teacher, a first-rate scholar and a terrific lawyer. She more than encourages her students and the many others whom she teaches; she actually inspires them.”
MacKenzie called Sproat an outstanding colleague who is dedicated to her students and her community. “Kapua’s appointment as Associate Director recognizes the responsibilities that she has taken on to increase Ka Huli Ao’s administrative capacity and financial resources,” MacKenzie said. “She is not only an outstanding scholar and teacher, her advocacy work with rural and Neighbor Island communities speaks to the core of Ka Huli Ao’s mission. We are very fortunate to have her at the Law School and particularly at Ka Huli Ao.”
Sproat joined the Richardson Law School faculty in 2007 as an Assistant Professor with Ka Huli Ao and the Law School’s Environmental Law Program. She is Director of the Environmental Law Clinic and teaches courses in Native Hawaiian and Environmental Law, as well as Legal Research and Writing. Before joining the faculty, she spent nine years as an attorney in the Hawaii office of Earthjustice, which is a national public interest environmental litigation firm.
Sproat has a BA from Mills College and a JD from the William S. Richardson School of Law.
Photo courtesy University of Hawaii