• Summer Sylva

    Summer Sylva is the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC).  She has been a staff attorney since 2014. Her work with Hawaii’s only non-profit law firm dedicated to Native Hawaiian rights first began in 2005 as a summer law clerk. NHLC’s work motivated Summer’s efforts to organize Cornell University’s first native water law and public policy symposium. It also inspired her law journal publication chronicling Na Moku Aupuni O Ko‘olau Hui’s early legal efforts to perpetuate taro farming by combating commercial diversions that had dewatered East Maui streams and tributaries for over a century.

    After graduating from Cornell Law School in 2007, Summer practiced commercial and bankruptcy litigation in New York and New Jersey for an international law firm. Summer moved home in 2011 and continued her private practice in business, construction, and real estate matters.

    In 2014, Summer returned to NHLC to litigate the East Maui water case that inspired her legal scholarship a decade earlier. As lead counsel, Summer and NHLC’s dedicated team of staff and attorneys secured a landmark victory — completely restoring  streamflow to 10 streams and requiring 90-percent habitat recovery to 5 additional streams — in the state’s largest water rights case spanning 17 years of litigation. Summer also represents the cultural practitioners who sued the state for failing to protect ceded lands in Pohakuloa from the harmful effects of military training exercises. Earlier this year, a state court for the first time recognized “malama ‘aina” as a legal duty, and ruled that the state’s leasing and (mis)management of tens of thousands of acres of ceded lands to the U.S. Army violated that duty.

    Summer’s ongoing legal and other advocacy statewide includes efforts to protect Native Hawaiian land and water rights, sacred places, traditional and customary practices, Hawaiian entitlement programs, and prisoners’ rights.


    • "Whistleblowers:  Are They Your Brother's Keeper?"  White Collar Defense Alert - February 17, 2011
    • "Court Rejects Product Liability Iinsurance Claim Against General Liability Policy" International Law Office's Product Liability USA Newsletter, April 3, 2008
    • "Indigenizing Water Law in the 21st Century:  Na Moku Aupuni O Ko`olau Hui, A Native Hawaiian Case Study", Cornell Jorunal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 16 (3), Summer 2007
    • Co-Author (Look, Mele/Baruffi, Gigliola), "Health of Hawaiian Women", Pacific Health Dialog, Vol. 5 (2), September 1998

    Professional Affiliations

    • Hawai‘i State Bar Association
    • Native Hawaiian Bar Association, Board of Director
    • New York Bar Association
    • New Jersey State Bar Association
    • The Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey
    • Waimānalo Health Center, Board of Director, Board Secretary (2000-2004)

    Past Positions

    • Litigation Associate, Bays Lung Rose & Holma (2011-2013)
    • Litigation Associate, Holland & Knight LLP (2006-2011)
    • Research Administrator, Hawaii Cancer Research Center, Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii (2001-2004)
    • Editorial Assistant, J. of Climate, Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii (2003)
    • Editorial Assistant, J. of Physical Oceanograph, Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii (1998 to 2004)
    • Women's Health Researcher, Queen's Health System (Summer/Fall 1997)


    • Cornell Law School (J.D., Public Law Certificate, 2007)
    • Barnard College-Columbia University (B.A., Political Science, 1997)
  • Moses Haia III

    Moses Kalei Nahonoapi`ilani Haia III is a staff attorney at NHLC, obtaining landmark victories in native rights cases seeking to protect ancient Hawaiian burials and Native Hawaiian water rights.

    Before joining NHLC in 2001, Moses was a solo practitioner. His practice involved labor and employment law, civil litigation and native Hawaiian rights. Moses also previously served as a staff attorney with a native rights law firm, the Native Hawaiian Advisory Council, where he litigated a seminal water rights case involving the distribution of water from one part of O’ahu to another through the Waiahole Ditch.


    • Editor and Contributor, E Alu Like Mai i Ka Pono - Coming Together for Justice. This handbook describes the legislative process, administrative agencies that deal with Hawaiian affairs, and how Hawaiians can participate in governmental decision-making.
    • Eric Yamamoto, Moses Haia & Donna Kalama, Courts and the Cultural Performance: Native Hawaiians’ Uncertain Federal and State Law Rights To Sue, 16 Hawaii L. Rev. 1 (Summer 1994)


    • Honolulu Star Bulletin, “10 Who Made A Difference”, 2007 - For his work related to the protection and preservation of historic and cultural properties.
    • Honolulu Star Advertiser, Insight Section, "Name in the News", 2016 - Recognized as the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation advocates for Hawaiians seeking to return to their lands.

    Professional Affiliations

    • Hawaii State Bar Association
    • Native Hawaiian Bar Association
    • Hawaii State Bar Association, Board of Director
    • Hawaii Veterans Memorial Fund, Board of Director
    • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights - Hawaii Advisory Committee, Board of Director
    • Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, Board of Director
    • Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Board of Director
    • Native American Rights Fund, Board of Director Chair (2012-2018)

    Past Positions

    • Staff Attorney, Native Hawaiian Advisory Council (1995 to 1997)


    • William S. Richardson School of Law (J.D. 1994)
    • University of Hawaii (B.A., Political Science, 1989)
  • Alan T. Murakami

    Alan Murakami began his service here as a staff attorney in 1983.  He has served as litigation director in 1990, Community Engagement Officer in 2014, and presently as a staff attorney. As a staff attorney, Alan has specialized in litigating novel land and water issues affecting Native Hawaiians. In the process, Alan has created important legal precedents enabling Native Hawaiians to enforce their rights under the ceded and Hawaiian homelands trusts long established by Congress for their benefit, but often overlooked by current administrators. He has defended Hawaiian rights to water and other resources important to Hawaiian cultural preservation. He has worked on important precedents to protect the burial remains which have been threatened by development and other disturbances.  He has worked with Hawaiian families to defend their interests in family lands, establishing important due process rights.

    Alan has a long and distinguished legal career serving Native Hawaiian communities. Before joining NHLC, he was the managing director of the Moloka`i and Wai`anae offices of the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i from 1981 to 1983, giving voice to Native Hawaiian in community struggles related to protection of important resources and cultural preservation.

    Case Highlights


    Hustace v. Kapuni

    Represented Native Hawaiian family in precedential case, articulating the due process requirements that must be met in quiet title lawsuits aimed at securing ownership of Native Hawaiian-owned land through adverse possession.

    Napeahi v. Paty

    Argued successfully for precedent that submerged lands are part of the public ceded lands trust and thereby subject to the land claims of Native Hawaiians.

    Paʻa Pono Miloli‘i v. Land Use Commission

    Alan represented fishermen in Miloli‘i, the last traditional fishing village in the state. Their fishing grounds were threatened by a massive development in Ka‘u, initially approved by the State Land Use Commission. Alan successfully appealed that decision, which was reversed for failure to adequately consider and account for the impacts of the planned marina on these fishing grounds.

    Protect Keopuka ʻOhana v. 1250 Oceanside Partners

    Represented a community organization opposed to the largest residential development every proposed in Hawai‘i on 750 acres in Kona that resulted in massive pollution to coastal waters, misidentification and desecration of scores of ancient Hawaiian burial sites, the misappropriation of an ancient Hawaiian trail and the improper use of agricultural lands for resort residential use.  The litigation successfully stopped construction.


    • Contributor, Native Hawaiian Rights Treatise

    Awards and Recognition

    • Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, “I Ulu I Ke Kumu” Award  (2011)
    • National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (“NAPBA”) Trailblazer Award  (2007)
    • In 1999, the state wide organization of the Hawaiian Civic Clubs honored Mr. Murakami for his legal advocacy to Native Hawaiians, especially beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust.

    Professional Affiliations

    • Hawai`i Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights
    • Japanese American Citizens League
    • National board member for the Rural Community Assistance Corporation and the Community Based Economic Development


    • University of California at Davis (J.D. 1978)
    • University of Hawai`i (M.A., Economics, 1975)
    • University of Santa Clara (B.A., Economics, 1971)
  • David Kauila Kopper

    David Kauila Kopper began serving the Native Hawaiian community as a NHLC staff attorney in 2010.  Kauila has led impact litigation intended to effect social change, including multiple lawsuits aimed to protect traditional and customary practices on Mauna Kea.  He represents clients in various matters relating to Native Hawaiian rights law including historic property and burial site preservation, government leases and programs, and land title and historical native land claims.  He has substantial experience before all of Hawai‘i’s courts and various administrative bodies. Kauila is also an accomplished classically-trained musician with over 20 years of professional experience.

    Representative Engagements

    • Challenged an emergency proclamation of the Governor of the State of Hawai‘i which restricted free speech and traditional practices on Mauna Kea.
    • Challenged the sublease for the Thirty Meter Telescope project.
    • Obtained a declaratory judgment invalidating state agency rules limiting public protests, free speech, and Native Hawaiian traditional cultural practices on Mauna Kea.
    • Successful on appeal declaring the public’s due process right to call witnesses and present evidence in contested agency hearings
    • Obtained injunctions preventing the desecration of iwi kupuna threatened by construction projects
    • Represented Native Hawaiian families in numerous quiet title and partition actions.
    • Successful on appeal defeating adverse possession claim based on historic title and usage
    • Obtained a declaratory judgment against the State of Hawai‘i for the failure to transfer a long-term lease for a Native Hawaiian family’s ancestral land.
    • Successfully represented cultural practitioners seeking access to landlocked native tenancies.  
    • Obtained humanitarian parole for a minor Tongan national so that he could be reunited with his adoptive mother living in Hawaiʻi.

    Representative Reported Appellate Cases

    • Clarabal v. State, SCAP-16-0000475 (2019)
    • Flores v. Bd. Of Land & Natural Res., 143 Haw. 114 (2018)
    • Hall v. Dept of Land & Natural Res., 128 Haw. 455, 290 P.3d 525 (Haw. Ct. App. 2012)
    • Lanaians for Sensible Growth v. Lanai Resorts, LLC, 137 Hawai‘i 298,(App. 2016)
    • Kaʻupulehu Land LLC v. Heirs of Pahukula, 136 Hawai‘i 123, 125, 358 P.3d 692, 694 (2015)


    University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, William S. Richardson School of Law Honolulu, Hawai`i
          Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, May 2010   
          Executive Editor for Publications, University of Hawai‘i Law Review, 2009 – 2010
    Arizona State University, Herberger College of Fine Arts Tempe, Arizona
          Bachelor of Music, Music Performance, magna cum laude, July 2006

  • Li‘ulā Kotaki

    Li‘ulā Kotaki joined NHLC in 2011 as a staff attorney. She previously served as NHLC's Director of Development and Marketing heading our fundraising efforts.  She also served as an intake attorney, handling legal inquiries at NHLC.  Throughout law school and during her Post-JD Research Fellowship at Ka Huli Ao, Li‘ulā researched the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, the empowerment of Hawaiian Home Lands community associations, and the future of these lands in a post-Akaka Bill society.  She graduated from the William S. Richardson School of Law with a Pacific Asian Legal Studies Certificate with a Specialty in Native Hawaiian Law.  She previously worked for NHLC as a summer law clerk in 2007.

    Awards and Recognitions

    • CALI Award for Highest Grade, Environmental Law, William S. Richardson School of Law, Fall 2007
    • CALI Award for Highest Grade, Legal Practice, William S. Richardson School of Law, Fall 2006

    Professional Affiliations

    • Hawai‘i State Bar Association
    • Native Hawaiian Bar Association
    • Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honor Society

    Past Positions

    • Renewable Energy Project Assistant, Hawai‘i State Energy Office (2010-2011)
    • Post-J.D. Research Fellow, Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law (2009-2010)


    • William S. Richardson School of Law (J.D., cum laude, 2009)
    • University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (B.A., Ethnic Studies, 2005)


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