The Board of Directors of The Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i is pleased to welcome David Kauila Kopper as its new Executive Director starting on June 13, 2023.
“The Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i is looking forward to working with David Kauila Kopper, our new Executive Director, in carrying on fulfilling our mission of providing high quality legal advocacy, outreach and education in pursuit of fairness and justice and improving access to justice, especially for our vulnerable community members,” said Blaine Rogers, President of the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i Board of Directors.
David (AKA “Kauila”) comes to Legal Aid as the former Director of Litigation at Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC). He represented NHLC 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.
Much of David’s practice with NHLC focused on holding the state and local governments to their trust obligations towards Native Hawaiians. He litigated Hawaiian entitlement program disputes, including those arising under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. He also litigated multiple lawsuits aimed to protect the exercise of traditional and customary practices on Mauna Kea. David started with NHLC as Intake Staff in 2010. He then took on the roles of Staff Attorney and Director of Litigation, and has also served as Interim Executive Director.
David’s experience before all of Hawaiʻi’s courts and various administrative bodies, especially as a transitional leader at NHLC, will serve as an asset for Legal Aid as it continues its mission work after the departure of long-time Executive Director Nalani Fujimori Kaina.
David excels at community engagement and working closely with prospective clients and partners, has continuing relationships with policymakers and stakeholders, and has previously partnered with contract and grant providers to secure funding. He is passionate about serving the keiki and kūpuna, individuals and families, and Hawai‘i’s vulnerable groups and communities.
He has also served as panel speaker and presenter at a wide range of trainings, conferences and radio shows, most recently for the Harvard Law Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) and Hawai‘i Access to Justice Commission.
“I have always gravitated towards organizations that serve communities ʻohana and people in need, and have a deep admiration for advocates who dedicate themselves to that service," David said. “As the next Executive Director, I am honored to be a part of such an organization and to carry forward Legal Aid’s over 70-year legacy as the oldest and largest legal services firm dedicated to addressing Hawai‘i’s critical legal needs.”
Originally from Hilo, David received his degrees from William S. Richardson School of Law (J.D. magna cum laude, 2010) and from Arizona State University (magna cum laude, 2006). He is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama.
In his spare time, he is either out in nature or playing music. He is an avid outdoorsman and a classically trained professional musician with hundreds of public performances.
We are excited to see Legal Aid continue its pursuit to build a just society and advance access to justice under David's leadership. Please join us in giving him a warm welcome.
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