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Hawaii Business Magazine’s 20 for the Next 20: People to Watch 2012

20 emerging leaders in local businesses, nonprofits, government, education and law

(page 9 of 21)

Photo: Courtesy of Isaac Moriwake

Isaac Moriwake age 40

Attorney, Earthjustice

Isaac Moriwake remembers his first time playing basketball outdoors in the Los Angeles smog while attending Pomona College. [A previous version of this story listed Cal Poly Pomona as Moriwake's former school.]

“I couldn’t breathe and was nearly hospitalized,” he recalls. That began his awareness that he was lucky to grow up in Hawaii.

“I realized my roots are in Hawaii and now my life search has become, ‘What is my place here? Will I be a part of the problem or try to be a part of the solution?’ ”

Despite this revelation, a career in environmental law wasn’t his original plan. After graduating from the University of Hawaii’s Richardson School of Law, Moriwake worked as a law clerk for Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Paula Nakayama. He then went to the Federal Public Defender’s Office and later to the law firm of Alston Hunt Floyd and Ing.

He began to appreciate that his UH law school education was something unique.

“It’s based on Native Hawaiian indigenous principles carried on to the 21st century. Living in Hawaii is a privilege. And with that privilege comes responsibility.” So when an opportunity came for a two- to three-year stint at Earthjustice, Moriwake jumped at the chance.

“I approached it as a dream job – an honor to do this type of work – and thought I’d ride the wave as long as I can,” he says. He’s been riding that wave for almost 10 years and has earned a reputation as a fierce advocate of enforcing Hawaii’s trust responsibilities to rivers and streams, and empowering Hawaiians to control the future of their water supplies.

In the past few years, Moriwake also has worked with the solar industry to advance the use of clean energy.

“Isaac’s successful engagement in the regulatory process is laying groundwork for a better energy future for Hawaii and paving the way for other states to follow,” says Mark Duda, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association. “In addition to the impact he’s having in the energy sphere, Isaac is a tireless champion on water rights issues in the courts and at the Water Commission. I expect him to be a dominant force in these areas for several decades to come.”


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