Our Team

Overview

Team

  • Esther Sungeun Yoo, Director
  • Ethan Higa
  • Kara Teng

Law Fellow Alumni

  • Taylor S. Brack
  • Beverlyn Simina

Advisory Committee

  • Jan Tamura, Chair
  • Kevin Block
  • John Robert Egan
  • Stephanie Haro-Sevilla
  • Maile M. Hirota
  • Greg Kim
  • Corianne W. Lau
  • Krysti Uranaka-Yamashiro
  • Melinda (“Minda”) Yamaga

team

Esther Sungeun Yoo, Director

Esther Sungeun Yoo is the Director of the William S. Richardson School of Law Refugee and Immigration Law Clinic and a Visiting Assistant Faculty Specialist. At Richardson, she teaches the Immigration Law and Immigration Clinic courses.

Prior to joining the law school, Professor Yoo was the founding attorney for The Legal Clinic in Honolulu. She counseled and represented hundreds of low-income Hawai‘i immigrants in a wide range of immigration matters before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Executive Office of Immigration Review, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Before entering public interest law, she served as Director of Academic Success at the University of Maine School of Law. She also worked as a litigator in private practice, where she maintained an active pro bono asylum practice. 

Over her career, Professor Yoo has represented asylum seekers, including children, both affirmatively before USCIS and defensively in Immigration Court.  Her clients have fled various forms of persecution, including FGM and forced marriage, on account of their race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, including those based on LGBTQIA identity, gender, or familial ties. They have arrived from countries such as Afghanistan, Brazil, Burundi, Djibouti, El Salvador, Honduras, Myanmar, Peru, and Russia. She has also represented unaccompanied children and other youth who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.

Professor Yoo received her bachelor’s degree in Social Studies from Harvard University and graduated Order of the Coif from the UCLA School of Law. In law school, she served as an editor of the UCLA Law Review and was a member of the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy. She began her legal career as an associate at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Dolly M. Gee of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Prior to law school, Professor Yoo served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, conducting educational outreach in underserved Los Angeles communities for the University of California and then working for the nonprofit foundation of the Massachusetts juvenile public defender’s office. During law school, she received an Equal Justice America grant and a Sidley Austin Public Interest Fellowship to intern for Public Counsel in its Transition-Age Foster Youth program. 

Professor Yoo is the child of immigrants from South Korea and the granddaughter of refugees from North Korea. 

Email: esyoo@hawaii.edu

Phone: (808) 956-4092

Esther Yoo

Ethan Higa

Ethan Higa works to give a voice to refugees and migrants as the current Post-J.D. Law Fellow at the Refugee and Immigration Law Clinic. While in law school, Ethan learned about immigration law as an intern at the USCIS field office in Honolulu during his 1L summer. This experience encouraged Ethan to spend his 2L and 3L years working with the Refugee and Immigration Law Clinic as an intern and volunteer. Ethan gained further experience as a law intern for Aloha Immigration during his 2L summer and 3L year.

Email: higae@hawaii.edu

Kara Teng

Kara Teng is an Immigration Law Advocate at the William S. Richardson School of Law Refugee and Immigration Law Clinic. 

Prior to joining the Clinic, Kara served as a law clerk for the Honorable Rhonda I. L. Loo of the Second Circuit Court of the Hawai‘i State Judiciary. She then worked as an Attorney Advisor to the San Francisco Immigration Court. She advised immigration judges on complex matters involving asylum, cancellation of removal, waivers, and adjustment of status. She returned to Hawai`i to join The Legal Clinic as an immigration staff attorney, where she represented asylum seekers affirmatively before USCIS and defensively in Immigration Court. She also represented clients seeking crime waivers, post-conviction relief, adjustment of status, citizenship, Special Immigration Juvenile Status, and DACA. In addition to RILC, she works as a staff attorney at Speak Out & Up Law, LLLC, a legal empowerment law firm founded by fellow Richardson graduate Leslee Matthews ’18. 

Kara received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and her law degree from the William S. Richardson School of Law. At Richardson, she was Technical Editor for the University of Hawai‘i Law Review. She was also President of Lawyers Against Sexual Violence, Vice President of Advocates for Public Interest Law, and a member of the Filipino Law Students Association. She received the CALI Excellence for the Future Award for the highest grades in Feminist Legal Theory and Civil Rights. 

While in law school, she was an extern at the Hawai‘i Immigrant Justice Center and the Honolulu Immigration Court. She also served as a research assistant for Professor Mari Matsuda. As part of Professor Matsuda’s Organizing for Social Change class, Kara helped re-establish the law school’s Refugee and Immigration Law Clinic. 

Kara has long been a passionate defender of immigrants’ rights. She is especially thrilled to bring her experience and passion to her alma mater, where she hopes to help cultivate the next generation of immigration and public interest attorneys.

Kara Teng Photo

Advisory COMMITTEE

Jan Tamura, Chair

A retired attorney, Jan was a partner and counsel at a Honolulu law firm where she litigated civil matters in state and federal courts for over 20 years. During her legal career, Jan served as legal services director for both the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse & Legal Hotline (now the Domestic Violence Action Center or DVAC) and Volunteer Legal Services Hawai‛i. More recently, she worked in the area of Title IX in higher education. Jan’s lifelong pro bono work has included advising and representing survivors of gender-based violence, serving as a court appointed volunteer guardian ad litem for sexually abused teens, and serving on numerous non-profit boards including those of the Hawai‛i Women’s Legal Foundation, Hawai‛i Women Lawyers, Planned Parenthood (Hawai‛i region), DVAC and the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‛i. She has also served as a member of the advisory committees for Na Loio and the Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center as well as various committees of the Hawaii State Bar Association. Jan received her M.S.W. from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and is a proud member of the William S. Richardson School of Law Class of 1985. She currently volunteers at RILC as counsel for a young woman from Myanmar seeking asylum in the U.S.

Jan Tamura Headshot

Kevin Block

Kevin Block is an attorney in private practice and the owner and principal attorney of Maui Immigration Law, LLC. Kevin’s areas of practice include family-based petitions, citizenship, deportation defense, green cards through marriage, appeals and specialty visas for athletes and investors. He currently serves as the Vice Chair for the Hawai‘i Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and on the Board of Directors of the Hawaii Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union and The Legal Clinic.

KB Headshot

John Robert Egan

John Robert Egan is an experienced Immigration Lawyer and served as Chairperson of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Hawai’i Chapter in 2008-2009. In the early 1990’s he worked as a Field Officer for the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, serving in posts in Mozambique and Malawi. This experience, working to ameliorate the impacts of large-scale forced migration, provided a strong motivation to learn the international laws and protocols related to cross-border population movements. 

Before recently retiring as a member of the WSRSL faculty, Egan taught numerous immigration law courses and served as the Director of Refugee & Immigration Law Clinic, providing students with live-client practice opportunities before the Immigration Court, the various immigration agencies and the Federal Courts of Appeal.

Stephanie Haro-Sevilla

Stephanie Haro-Sevilla is a rising 3L at the William S. Richardson school of law and a former DACA recipient. Stephanie’s experience as an immigrant has guided her into immigration and human rights law. This past year Stephanie worked with Professor Eric K. Yamamoto as his scholar advocate and research assistant, as well as his TA for Civil Procedure.

Stephanie Haro Sevilla Headshot

Maile M. Hirota

Maile M. Hirota is the Manager of Hirota & Associates, LLLC, concentrating in business and family- based immigration law, including family visas, business and investor visas, permanent residence and U.S. citizenship matters. Ms. Hirota’s extensive community immigration involvement includes serving on committees for the American Immigration Lawyers Association; membership in IMMLAW; providing expert witness testimony, clinics, and free legal seminars; and public speaker and advocacy work.

Greg Kim

For almost 40 years, Greg Kim has been a corporate lawyer, practicing in the area of corporate and securities law, including startup work and venture capital. After obtaining his B.S. in Engineering and Applied Sciences from Yale University and his J.D./M.B.A. from UC Berkeley, Greg served as a law clerk to the Honorable Herbert Y.C. Choy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He began training as a corporate lawyer in the Bay Area at Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, before returning home to Hawai‘i in 1988, where he joined Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel. In 2004, he launched Vantage Counsel as one of the nation’s first virtual law firms. He then joined several other Silicon Valley-based virtual law firms, before returning to Vantage Counsel in 2018. During his career, Greg founded or co-founded multiple organizations dedicated to entrepreneurship and served on boards at business educational institutions. He has also long taught the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Clinic at the William S. Richardson School of Law. In addition to serving as a member of the Advisory Committee, Greg is currently volunteering as counsel for an asylee from Egypt.

Corianne W. Lau

Corianne W. Lau is a partner with the law firm of Dentons US LLP where her practice is concentrated in the areas of employment law, government contracts, commercial disputes and administrative law.  She has a special affinity for helping nonprofits solve problems and stay out of trouble.   Among Cori’s community service contributions, she has served on the boards of the East-West Center, the Hawai`i State Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i and the YWCA O`ahu.

Headshot of Corianne Lau

Krysti Uranaka-Yamashiro

Krysti Uranaka-Yamashiro is currently a Staff Attorney with the City and County of Honolulu Office of Council Services. Previously, she served as a Policy Analyst with the Office of the Vice President for Administration at the University of Hawai‘i. Krysti received her J.D., summa cum laude, from the William S. Richardson School of Law in 2016. During her time in law school, she served as the Managing Editor of the UH Law Review and as a Judicial Extern to the Honorable Mark E. Recktenwald, Hawai‘i Supreme Court.

Krysti Uranaka Yamashiro Headshot

Melinda (“Minda”) Yamaga

Minda Yamaga is currently a Senior Litigator in the Office of the Federal Public Defender, District of Hawai‘i where she represents criminal defendants charged with violations of federal law. Prior to that, from 2010 to 2015, she worked as a Deputy Public Defender at the State of Hawai‘i Office of the Public Defender. There, she appeared as counsel for indigent criminal defendants in state court proceedings and was lead trial attorney in numerous jury trials. From 2009-2010, she was a law clerk for the Honorable Richard W. Pollack, State of Hawai‘i First Judicial Circuit Judge. Ms. Yamaga received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a Certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Hawai‘i and a law degree from the University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law. She serves as President of the Board for the Japanese American Citizens League, Honolulu Chapter; President of the Board for Mental Health Kokua; and is a Board Member for the Hawaiʻi Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.