Summer Lee Haunani Sylva is the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC), Hawaiʻi’s premier Native Hawaiian rights non-profit law firm. With over a decade of litigation experience, Summer oversees a small but dedicated staff who provide legal services to over 400 clients annually. Since 1974, NHLC has been committed to a singular mission: to perpetuate, through legal and other advocacy, the rights, customs, and practices that strengthen Native Hawaiian identity and culture.
Summer holds a BA from Barnard College-Columbia University and a JD from Cornell Law School, where she organized Cornell University’s first native water law and public policy symposium. After practicing law for seven years in New York and Hawaiʻi’s private sectors, Summer joined NHLC to litigate the East Maui community’s longstanding battle to restore stream flows diverted from their ancestral lands. As lead counsel, Summer secured a landmark victory resulting in the full and permanent restoration of eight streams previously diverted for over a century. She continues to advocate for Native Hawaiian communities in water rights cases, as well as other efforts dedicated to protecting Native Hawaiian land rights, sacred places, traditional and customary practices, prisoners’ rights, and Native Hawaiian entitlement programs.