Richardson alumni play key role in reaching a historic settlement for youth-led constitutional climate case against Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation

Alumni from the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa played a key role in securing an historic settlement in the Navahine v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation case, announced by Governor Josh Green on June 20, 2024. This groundbreaking resolution, led by youth plaintiffs, mandates transformative actions for Hawaiʻi’s sustainable future and acknowledges the constitutional rights of the state’s youth to a life-sustaining climate.

This landmark achievement highlights the profound impact of Richardson alumni on environmental justice. It is also vital for the people of Hawaiʻi as it sets a precedent for proactive climate action and the protection of constitutional rights.

“At a time where the role of law is ever present, the transformative work of Richardson Law alumni shines through. The impact of Richardson alumni in this case and its settlement is a stellar example of the ways in which they have made a difference in our communities, both near and far. Their intellect, hard work, expertise and commitments have contributed to a monumental settlement, one that will serve as a leading light in many other jurisdictions,” said Dean Camille Nelson.

Isaac Moriwake ‘98, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Mid-Pacific Office, emphasized the critical role Richardson alumni played in the case. “Richardson alums were intensively involved in all sides of the case, which was a key factor in shaping the case and its pathbreaking resolution. We understood and internalized Hawaii’s pioneering legal principles that lay the foundation for the case and settlement. And we shared the community connections and commitment to place that made the forward-looking cooperative resolution possible,” Moriwake said.

“The resolution in the Navahine case is a historic step toward the climate justice the world needs because it acts on the government’s climate obligations to children and Native Hawaiians and embraces bold leadership and collaboration to bring change for Hawaii and far beyond. The climate crisis is humanity’s ultimate group project, in which we work together or fail apart. It’s no coincidence that Hawaii—and Richardson lawyers—are helping lead the way forward for our island community and island Earth,” said Marti Townsend ’05 who led community engagement for the case.

Senior attorney Kylie Wager Cruz ‘13 of Earthjustice and attorney Joanna Zeigler ‘15 of Our Children’s Trust also played vital roles in supporting and representing the plaintiffs. In addition, alumnus Ciara Kahahane ‘19 represented the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation as Deputy Attorney General.

As we recognize this historic settlement, the William S. Richardson School of Law urges all Hawaiʻi residents to stay informed and engaged in the conversations about climate justice. These are important conversations for our state and region and we look forward to the ongoing leadership of our faculty and alumni in this important area.