Faculty & Staff



Assistant Professor of Law


JD, William S. Richardson School of Law, 2008


Derek H. Kauanoe ‘08 is a proud graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law, where he joined the faculty in August 2022 as an Assistant Professor of Law. Professor Kauanoe teaches courses on torts, federal Indian law, and legal writing.

Professor Kauanoe’s scholarly research interests focus on Indigenous self-determination and self-governance. Indigenous self-determination and self-governance, as a research topic, provide opportunities for examining: 1) International Indigenous Human Rights Law, 2) relevant domestic law and the implementation of International Indigenous Human Rights Law at the federal and state levels, 3) Indigenous governance and justice systems; and exploring possibilities for the Native Hawaiian community to exercise greater self-determination and self-governance over its land and resources, cultural integrity, and health and well-being. His work examines how nation-states worldwide comply with and implement obligations to Indigenous Peoples (including at the national and state levels) and how Indigenous Peoples exercise their rights within their communities. Professor Kauanoe is currently working on a law review article focusing on Native Hawaiian land issues within an Indigenous self-determination framework. He is also working on a book chapter in the forthcoming second edition of Native Hawaiian Law: A Treatise, which focuses on Native Hawaiians and U.S. law. 

Professor Kauanoe’s work has focused on Native Hawaiians and Indigenous communities. He served as a Ka Huli Ao Post-J.D. Community Outreach Fellow after law school. He became a faculty specialist with Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law in 2010. In 2014, Professor Kauanoe was selected to coordinate the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Native Hawaiian self-determination and self-governance efforts as its Governance Manager. He also co-taught federal Indian law with Professor (Emerita) Melody MacKenzie (inaugural Director of Ka Huli Ao) over the course of two years. Subsequently, he enrolled in the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy program at the University of Arizona. While enrolled as a graduate law student there, he also became a Teaching Fellow in the Bachelor of Art in Law program with sections of students in common law contracts, torts, and real property. He also served as the interim Tribal Justice Clinic Director for the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy program and became a Professor of Practice. As the interim Tribal Justice Clinic Director, Professor Kauanoe worked closely with J.D. students pursuing the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy certificate while coordinating clinic projects. Professor Kauanoe also developed the Tribal Criminal Law and Procedure (undergraduate and Master of Legal Studies) courses.  

Professor Kauanoe was an active law student at the William S. Richardson School of Law. He served as an ʻAhahui O Hawaiʻi Alakaʻi and developed an LSAT preparation course to support Native Hawaiian applicants (and others from underserved and underrepresented communities). He was also a member, and captain, of the Native American Moot Court Team. Professor Kauanoe and his team partner Edward Hu (’08) received the Second Place Best Advocates award at the Sixteenth Annual National Native American Law Students Annual Moot Court Competition. Professor Kauanoe was also a staff editor for the Asian-Pacific Law and Policy Journal.

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