Published: Oct. 6, 2023
Sabrina McKenna

Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna of the Hawaii Supreme Court will join the Colorado Law community on Thursday, October 26, to deliver the 12th annual John Paul Stevens Lecture, entitled “State Constitutional Law: The Critical Course Missing from Most Law School Curricula.” 

Professor Suzette Malveaux and Justice McKenna will engage in a fireside chat about the historical and continued importance of state constitutions in the protection of civil, criminal, and environmental rights, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and the existential threat of climate change.  Justice McKenna will also offer practical advice to law students and lawyers. McKenna is the first Asian American and member of the LBGTQ community to deliver the Stevens Lecture.  

This lecture, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law. It will take place in Wittemyer Courtroom at the Wolf Law Building, 2450 Kittredge Loop Drive, Boulder, CO 80305, from 5-6 p.m. MT. Justice McKenna’s remarks will be followed by a Q&A with Colorado Law students, and a reception in Boettcher Hall from 6-7 p.m. MT. 

Register for the lecture here.  

“We are thrilled to welcome Justice McKenna for the 12th annual Stevens Lecture,” Prof. Malveaux shared. “The role of state constitutions seems more important than ever.  It is a perfect time to learn from Justice McKenna about Hawaii’s unique constitution and her perspective on the role of state courts in this current complex legal environment.”  

McKenna was appointed Associate Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court in early 2011, the first openly LGBTQ+ Asian American to serve on a state court of last resort. Her professional experience is vast. She served as a civil litigator, corporate counsel, and law professor before becoming a Hawaii state trial court judge in 1993. She presided in District, Circuit, and Family Courts as a trial court judge, and also served as Senior Judge of the Family Court of the First Circuit. 

McKenna served as chair of the Hawaii Supreme Court’s Committee on Equality and Access to the Courts, co-chair of the Chief Justice’s Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, and member of the Committee on Court Interpreters and Language Access. She is a faculty member of the National Judicial College and an honorary adjunct faculty member of the Jindal Global Law School in Delhi, India.  She sits on the Judicial Advisory Board of the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School’s Law & Economics Center Judicial Education Program. 

McKenna frequently speaks on a variety of issues, including women’s rights and empowerment. She has received numerous prestigious awards, including the 2023 American Bar Association Margaret Brent Women Lawyer of Achievement Award, 2022 Japanese American Bar Association Legacy Project designee and the 2021 American Bar Association Stonewall Award. 
She is a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review.