Kamaile Turčan, a University of Hawaiʻi William S. Richardson School of Law graduate has been chosen for a prestigious law clerk position by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor beginning this summer.
This is the first time a UH law school graduate has been invited to clerk for a United States Supreme Court Justice, as well as the first time that a person of Native Hawaiian ancestry has served as a law clerk to any justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The opportunity to work on some of the biggest legal questions of our day, to help Justice Sotomayor, is the ultimate opportunity for a young lawyer and an unparalleled experience,” said Turčan, who was known to friends and colleagues as Kamaile Nichols before her marriage in 2013.
“It’s an incredible lifetime opportunity for any law graduate, let alone one from Hawaiʻi, and I have to keep pinching myself. One of the exciting things about the court is one never knows what nationally important issue will present itself,” added Turčan. “The court is always faced with ‘hot topics,’ such as civil rights, the scope of the 4th Amendment protections in light of rapidly changing technology, and weighty legal disputes between congress and the president.”
Turčan emphasizes the role of the UH law school in opening up this opportunity. “I would not be in this position were it not for the advice, guidance, and friendly nudges in the right direction from Dean Avi Soifer and my ʻohana at Richardson,” she said.
UH law Dean Avi Soifer said that he and the law school are thrilled to have a graduate serve as a clerk in the nation’s highest court. “Kamaile is an outstanding example of the high level of achievement and diverse talents of our students,” he said. “For an attorney, one simply cannot do better than to clerk for a United States Supreme Court Justice. The opportunity for Kamaile to assist and be mentored by Justice Sotomayor, whose life story is so inspiring, is even more special.”
More on Turčan
Turčan is a 1998 graduate and salutatorian of Kamehameha Schools, and she received her BA in integrative biology from UC Berkeley in 2001. After working for several years as a field biologist, she entered the UH law school, graduating in 2008 with a certificate in environmental law. She served as editor-in-chief of the UH Law Review, participated on the International Environmental Law Moot Court team and received the Carl K. Mirikitani, Jr. Valedictory Prize.
After graduating, Turčan served as a law clerk for Federal District Court Judge David Ezra, followed by a clerkship with Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Clifton. She describes those two experiences as essential preparations for her coming clerkship with Justice Sotomayor.
Turčan currently works in Hawaiʻi as an attorney advisor with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), providing legal advice to the federal agency tasked with managing and conserving fishery resources and protected species within the Western and Central Pacific Region. The scope of her work includes environmental law, administrative law and some international law.
For more information, read the William S. Richardson School of Law story.