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Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2017

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2017

TOP PHOTO: (back row) Partner Dale Minami (second from left) with the Hon. Holly J. Fujie (left), Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge; Pankit Doshi (second from right), incoming NAPABA national president; Ameek Sidhu (right); (front row) David Louie (left), former Attorney General for the State of Hawai’i; Joan Haratani (middle), the 2006 president of the Bar Association of San Francisco; and Michelle Park Chiu (right), AABA Bay Area board member (photo courtesy of AABA).


Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys Dale Minami, Sean Tamura-Sato, Suhi Koizumi, Lisa P. Mak, and Seema Bhatt recently attended the annual National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) National Convention in Washington, D.C.  The Convention had a record-breaking turnout of over 2,000 Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law students, and elected officials from around the country.

Suhi Koizumi, a Senior Associate in our Immigration Practice Group, was honored with the prestigious NAPABA Best Under 40 Award, which recognizes talented individuals in the Asian Pacific American legal community who are under the age of 40 and have achieved prominence and distinction in their respective fields, and who have demonstrated a strong commitment to Asian Pacific American civic or community affairs.

Minami Tamaki’s Suhi Koizumi (left of podium) receiving one of NAPABA’s ‘Best Under 40″ awards at the 2017 national convention (photo by Lisa P. Mak).

During CLE breakout sessions, Dale Minami, a Partner in our Personal Injury Group, joined with members of the Asian American Bar Association of New York in a moving re-enactment of the story and trial of Fred Korematsu, which resulted in the overturning of a 40-year-old conviction for Mr. Korematsu’s refusal to obey exclusion orders aimed at Japanese Americans during World War II.  Since Dale was the Lead Counsel for Fred Korematsu, he played himself in the re-enactment, which he described as “quite stressful.”

Minami Tamaki Partner Dale Minami participating in a re-enactment of the Korematsu trial (photo by Lisa P. Mak).

At the Convention, our firm also raised awareness about the Stop Repeating History (stoprepeatinghistory.org) campaign, which seeks to educate the public on the dangers of unchecked presidential power and the parallels between the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II with the current administration’s travel ban executive orders.

All of our attorneys who attended the Convention were a part of the NAPABA Solo and Small Firm Committee, which promotes the interest of small firms through “Boot Camp” seminars, networking, and cross referrals.

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA), represented by President Miriam Kim, was honored with the NAPABA Affiliate of the Year Award, which recognizes an outstanding local affiliate bar association for its best practices and accomplishments in its local community.  Nassiri & Jung LLP of San Francisco, represented by Charles Jung, was recognized as the APA-Owned Law Firm of the Year.  Pankit Doshi of San Francisco was sworn in as the new President of NAPABA.

Dale was a co-founder of AABA.  Sean Tamura-Sato, a Partner in our Consumer & Employee Rights Group, and Lisa P. Mak, an Associate in the same group, currently serve on AABA’s Board of Directors.

Associates Seema Bhatt (left) and Lisa P. Mak (right) attended their first NAPABA convention (photo courtesy of Lisa. P. Mak).

Lisa and Seema were first-time Convention attendees and were inspired by the experience of seeing so many influential API attorneys in diverse roles and meeting many judges, politicians, and other prominent members of the legal community.

Minami Tamaki is proud to continue supporting NAPABA and its efforts to address civil rights issues, promote community service, and increase diversity in the legal profession.

Partners Dale Minami (left) and Sean Tamura-Sato at the NAPABA 2017 convention (photo by Lisa P. Mak).

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2018 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Personal Injury Practices

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2018 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Personal Injury Practices

Minami Tamaki LLP has received a Tier 1 ranking on the U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list under the “Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs” and “Immigration” categories for our metro area.

This is the fourth consecutive recognition by U.S. News/Best Lawyers of our Personal Injury practice and the third consecutive year of our Immigration practice.

The U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

To be eligible for a U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers in that particular practice area and metro.

Earlier this year, Partners Dale Minami, Minette A. Kwok, B. Mark Fong, and Senior Associate Olivia Serene Lee were selected by The Best Lawyers in America, which qualified the firm to be considered for the Best Law Firms list.

The attorneys in Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury Practice Group fight for the rights of people who are injured or have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the carelessness of others. We use a team approach which brings all of the resources of our practice group to bear on our cases. This has allowed us to recover multi-million dollar settlements and large verdicts for our clients.

The Immigration Practice Group of Minami Tamaki LLP offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services. We routinely assist employers and employees, nation-wide, in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. And, just as often, we help individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships.

Asian Pacific Fund Honors Minami Tamaki LLP with 2017 Leadership in Philanthropy Award

Asian Pacific Fund Honors Minami Tamaki LLP with 2017 Leadership in Philanthropy Award

The Asian Pacific Fund honored our firm with its 2017 Leadership in Philanthropy Award at the organization’s annual gala on October 14 at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco.

The Asian Pacific Fund Annual Gala is a celebration of philanthropic leadership in the Bay Area. A special part of the evening is a presentation of the Leadership in Philanthropy Award, which recognizes those who have attained remarkable success in their field while also serving as a role model for giving back.

From the Asian Pacific Fund: “For more than 40 years, Minami Tamaki LLP has been a trailblazer in legal services and civil rights on behalf of the Asian American community. The firm made history by reopening the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Korematsu v. the United States, and overturning the conviction of Fred Korematsu.”

The outcome of that landmark case helped lead to reparations for Japanese Americans unconstitutionally incarcerated during World War II.

“The firm’s partners are equally known for helping found the Asian Law Caucus and the Asian Law Alliance as part of their ongoing mission to promote, advance, and represent the basic human, legal and civil rights of Asian Pacific Islander communities and beyond.

“As a private law firm, Minami Tamaki LLP defends some of the most vulnerable in the community by fighting against wage theft, sexual harassment, and discrimination. The firm is consistently recognized as Super Lawyers; this year, all of Minami Tamaki LLP’s Partners were selected as Northern California Super Lawyers.”

The firm “also invests its profits and resources back into the community with the firm’s partners pooling together $1 million to launch a nonprofit foundation with an additional $200,000 immediately going into the community to support immigrant rights and advocacy.”

Past honorees of the Leadership in Philanthropy Award include: author Amy Tan, YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta, and Care.com chair and CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo.

Partner Dale Minami also previously received the award in 2003.

The Asian Pacific Fund is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to strengthening the Bay Area’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities. We help donors achieve their philanthropic goals, support organizations that serve our most vulnerable, and raise awareness about pressing community needs.

San Diego JACL Honors Dale Minami with Lifetime Achievement Award

San Diego JACL Honors Dale Minami with Lifetime Achievement Award

The San Diego Chapter of the National Japanese American Citizens League (San Diego JACL) honored Dale Minami and Peter Irons with Lifetime Achievement Awards on Sept. 16, 2017, at its “Never Forget – One Nation” gala commemorating the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066.

San Diego JACL also honored Norman Mineta, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and Japanese American veterans of the Korean War. The dinner event was held at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in San Diego.

Dale was nominated for the award by Lane Nishikawa.

The San Diego JACL has been a leading civil rights group in San Diego for 85 years.

Mark Fong, Dale Minami Recover $1,350,000 in Out-of-Control ATV Crash

Mark Fong, Dale Minami Recover $1,350,000 in Out-of-Control ATV Crash

John Doe, a 68-year-old retired UC Berkeley manager and his wife Jane, a 66-year-old retired school teacher, had been married for over 40 years, and were in excellent health.  They enjoyed an active and fulfilling retirement life, and especially loved taking care of their grandchildren.

On October 24, 2015, they were guests at an annual celebration hosted by the Defendants at their Napa Valley vineyard.   At the end of the party, one of the Defendants drove John and Jane in her all-terrain vehicle (“ATV”) to their car parked at the bottom of the hill. The couple sat on a bench seat in the ATV, which had no seat belts. The Defendant drove down a narrow road and hit a bump, causing her to fall out of the ATV and leave John and Jane alone in the vehicle as it careened out of control down the hill.

Their terrifying descent ended when the ATV slammed into a car at the bottom of the hill. The impact threw Jane onto the ground, where she struck her head and lost consciousness. John’s  head struck the steering wheel.  Jane  suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, a broken femur which required multiple surgeries to repair, a broken nose, and a broken heel. John suffered a broken humerus in his shoulder which required surgery, a lacerated lip, and post-concussion syndrome.

After months of painful rehabilitation, John and Jane went on to make satisfactory recoveries from their injuries.  However, the incident has had a lasting impact on their retirement and recreational activities which they had greatly looked forward to enjoying in their “golden years.”

Minami Tamaki partners B. Mark Fong (lead counsel) and Dale Minami settled John and Jane’s claims for personal injury against the ATV owners for $1 million (the limit of their liability insurance), plus an additional $350,000 paid personally by the owners.

Minami Tamaki Files German Automaker Cartel Class Action Lawsuit

Minami Tamaki Files German Automaker Cartel Class Action Lawsuit

On October 4, 2017, Minami Tamaki filed a class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California alleging that German automakers BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, and Mercedes Benz conspired to limit competition and stunt automotive innovation.

The German publication Der Spiegel has reported that German automakers formed a wide-ranging cartel to reach agreements related to vehicle technology, costs for components, and suppliers.  It has been reported that working groups within these companies met with each other over 1,000 times dating back to the 1990s.

The automakers allegedly colluded on technical advancements, such as limiting the tank size for chemical cleaning agents (called AdBlue) that filter harmful diesel engine emissions.  The Der Spiegel report also cites an example of the automakers agreeing to limit the maximum speed at which convertible roofs could be opened to 50 kilometers/hour.

Individuals in the U.S. who purchased vehicles marketed as the product of highly touted “German engineering” may have been misled and unknowingly overpaid for their vehicles, and may be entitled to compensation.

Reports of a German automaker cartel come on the heels of the Volkswagen “clean diesel” scandal, which revealed that the company masked the fact that its vehicles emitted pollutants greatly exceeding legal limits through the use of “defeat devices.”  Minami Tamaki filed several lawsuits against Volkswagen alleging that the company cheated consumers and lied to the government.  After consumer claims were consolidated in the Northern District of California, Minami Tamaki prosecuted this matter with attorneys around the country, which resulted in settlements of over $15 billion.

If you own or lease a BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Audi, or Porsche automobile and would like to discuss your legal rights, you may contact us at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form. We look forward to the opportunity to speak with you.

Echoes of History: From the Incarceration of Japanese Americans to the Travel Ban

Echoes of History: From the Incarceration of Japanese Americans to the Travel Ban

This article by Partner Dale Minami was original written for the October 2017 issue of Contra Costa Lawyer, the official publication of the Contra Costa County Bar Association.

December 7, 1941.  The United States is suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.  A Day of Infamy.  Within two months, President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9066 which banishes 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast states, two-thirds of whom are American citizens.  They suffer indefinite confinement in prison camps in the nether reaches of the country.  No notice of charges, no right to attorneys, no trials.  Japanese Americans are sent to live in horse stalls, ramshackle barracks in deserts behind barbed wire in abject living conditions.  The old, the infirm, the children are all deemed national security risks.  Their crime:  racial ancestry.

The Supreme Court validated the curfew and exclusion orders aimed at Japanese Americans in the infamous landmark decisions of Hirabayashi vs. United StatesYasui vs. United States and Korematsu vs. United States, meekly accepting the military’s bald assertion of “military necessity” despite the absence of any acts of disloyalty or any proof of espionage or sabotage by Japanese Americans. The Court pronounces a rigid scrutiny test but it fails to perform any thorough analysis of the military’s claims.

Almost 40 years later, in 1983, along with a group of young lawyers [1], I represented Fred Korematsu in his coram nobis petition (“Korematsu II”) to overturn his conviction. This rare writ is limited to cases in which a “fundamental error” has been committed after a sentence has been served.  Based upon evidence discovered by Professor Peter Irons and Aiko Yoshinaga Herzig demonstrating that the government had knowingly presented falsified and altered evidence of disloyalty and espionage by Japanese Americans, we filed the coram nobis petition in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California to overturn Korematsu’s conviction.  Later parallel filings were made in Portland, Oregon for Minoru Yasui and in Seattle for Gordon Hirabayashi.

When we filed the petition the stakes were significant.  Japanese Americans, along with allies of all colors, had sought redress and reparations from Congress for this monumental injustice.  Opponents of redress argued that the Supreme Court had validated the exclusion and by implication, the detention, in the Hirabayashi, Yasui and Korematsu cases in 1943 and 1944.  Losing these cases a second time would surely set back the redress movement.  However, winning a judicial declaration of the government misconduct and lack of military necessity would discredit the validity of those Supreme Court decisions and undermine a central argument by the opponents of redress.

When our legal team stood in the courtroom on a rainy 10th day of November in 1983 to argue for overturning Fred Korematsu’s 40-year-old conviction, we knew that an extraordinary event would be unfolding.  Judge Marilyn Hall Patel had the case reassigned to the “Ceremonial Courtroom,” a larger, more grandiose venue.  Folding chairs were brought in to accommodate the more than 1,000 spectators, and reporters were stuffed into the jury box.  The audience included many Japanese Americans, young and old, including former prisoners and Japanese American veterans of the US Army who volunteered while their families were incarcerated.  The entire scene produced palpable electricity for Japanese Americans who were about to get their first day in court on the issue of their imprisonment.

Fred Korematsu, who lost his case in 1944, felt the weight of responsibility for a decision that essentially justified the incarceration of his people.  The legal team felt that weight too, but understood that the powerful evidence of misconduct admitted by government attorneys in 1944 refuted the arguments advanced by the Solicitor General that Japanese Americans were dangerous or disloyal.  The Supreme Court never saw the favorable evidence which the Solicitor General intentionally suppressed. Clearly, a fraud was committed on the United States Supreme Court in 1943 and 1944.

In the middle of the litigation, the government first offered a pardon to resolve Korematsu’s petition which he rejected, then offered a “Pardon of Innocence,” a government construct which would both forgive punishment and establish Koremtasu’s innocence of charges.  But after we presented the offer to Korematsu and his wife, their response was what we had hoped for and reflected their integrity, resolve and principles – “We won’t accept a pardon from the government; if anything, we should pardon the government!”

We came to this moment in time after almost two years of work grappling with some difficult legal questions:  How to overturn a 40-year-old conviction affirmed by the Supreme Court?  How to prove that a fraud was committed on our highest judicial body?  Can we introduce evidence so old that most of the authors and creators of the evidence are deceased?  Can we show that the Justices of the Supreme Court would have reached a different decision if they had known the truth?  Perhaps most importantly, how do we turn a civil rights disaster not well known in the American community into a tool to educate Americans?

I argued the case for my client with an introduction:  “We are here today to seek a measure of justice denied to Fred Korematsu and the Japanese American community some 40 years ago.”  The United States attorney argued that no legal or factual decisions were necessary.  In an unusual accommodation, the Court allowed Korematsu to speak.  In a strong, firm voice, he asked the Court to overturn his conviction so that what happened to him would never happen to another American again.

Judge Patel then ruled from the bench and stated decisively that the justification of “military necessity” for the executive and military orders were based on “unsubstantiated facts, distortions and representations of at least one military commander, whose views were seriously infected by racism.”  She also declared that serious governmental misconduct resulted in a manifest injustice.  With those words, she overturned Fred Korematsu’s 40-year-old conviction.

Following the Korematsu decision, Minoru Yasui’s conviction was overturned but without any explanation.  Gordon Hirabayashi tried his case to a mixed verdict but received full vindication in the 9th Circuit in a strong decision by Judge Mary Schroeder.  All three men had their convictions vacated and in due time, all three men received the Congressional Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the country.

The significance of Korematsu II and the Hirabayashi and Yasui victories are in the critical lessons taught about the role of courts and political power.   The original Korematsu Court failed to demand justification for the military orders and granted virtually complete deference to the military orders and the President.  The result was a civil rights disaster.  By revealing the extraordinary misconduct undermining the government’s case during World War II, Korematsu II highlighted the dangers when judicial review becomes a rubber stamp.

For Japanese Americans, Korematsu II lifted the cloud of disloyalty and validated their political birthright to dissent.  And, in a larger sense, the Court’s decision was a victory for all Americans.   It taught America about the fragility of civil rights especially during times of international tensions.  It reinforced our belief that civil rights must be fought for and are not simply guaranteed by the Courts or by any governmental institution. Civil rights are not gifts; they are challenges.

Fast forward:  35 years after Fred Korematsu’s conviction was overturned and 75 years after President Roosevelt’s Executive Order incarcerating Japanese Americans, the echoes of history resound today.  In the battle against terrorism, President Trump issued an executive order banning persons from certain Muslim majority countries from entering the United States.  He argued that his order was unreviewable by the Courts and was justified by national security.  This time, however, both the Fourth Circuit and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals rejected those arguments which the original Korematsu decision endorsed:

“There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

State of Washington, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, et al. (9th Cir. 2017) 847 F.3d 1151, 1161.

The Ninth Circuit stated emphatically:  “[C]ourts are not powerless to review the political branches’ actions with respect to matters of national security.”  Id. at p. 1163.  Quoting United States v. Robel, the Court observed:  “[N]ational defense’ cannot be deemed an end in itself, justifying any exercise of legislative power designed to promote such a goal…. It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties … which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.”  Id.  To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin:  A country which values security over liberty deserves neither.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear full arguments on the immigration ban in October.  Through the lens of history, Asian-Pacific Americans remember the first immigration bans imposed on an ethnic group – the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Exclusion Act barring Japanese Americans in 1924 and the racial profiling of Japanese Americans during World War II which accepted group rather than individual guilt.  President Trump’s justification of “national security” for the ban on immigration from majority Muslim countries is eerily similar to the justification of “military necessity” proffered in times past.  History should teach us to be wary of the wrongs that can be perpetrated under the mask of sweeping justifications of national security.  It should teach us that our courts need to exercise their proper authority in the checks and balances system. Without that balance, we veer toward losing the democracy we cherish.

[1] Other core members of the Korematsu legal team included Don Tamaki, Karen Kai, Judge Dennis Hayashi, Judge Edward Chen, Lorraine Bannai, Robert Rusky, Eric Yamamoto, Leigh-Ann Miyasato, Marjie Barrows and Donna Komure.

‘Top 100 Settlements in California in 2016’ List Includes Three Cases by Dale Minami, Mark Fong, and Seema Bhatt

‘Top 100 Settlements in California in 2016’ List Includes Three Cases by Dale Minami, Mark Fong, and Seema Bhatt

Top Verdict’s ‘Top 100 Settlements in California in 2016‘ list recognized three cases by Minami Tamaki’s personal injury practice.

Top Verdict each year recognizes law firms and attorneys who have obtained some of the highest jury verdicts and settlements in specific areas of law. The lists are generated based on extensive research based on court records, electronic submissions by attorneys, and major legal publications.

Top Verdict says that “most firms would make a Top Verdict list only once in their history.” Minami Tamaki had three cases on the 2016 list of settlements in California.

The first case was a $3,250,000 settlement in the case of Estate of Lai v. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. 78-year-old Cheng Jin Lai was killed by a Muni bus while riding his bicycle in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco. The bus made him lose control of his bicycle, causing him to fall under the rear wheel of the bus and be killed instantly. Partner Mark Fong, Associate Seema Bhatt, and Partner Dale Minami represented the Lai estate.

The second case was a $2,805,000 settlement in the motor vehicle injury case of Paul Hon Chow Lee v. Progistics Distribution Inc. et al. Our client was struck by a delivery van that ran a red light. The van was rented by the driver’s employer, Progistics Distribution, Inc. Mr. Lee suffered multiple traumatic injuries and is partially disabled, but thankfully has made significant improvement. Partner Dale Minami and Partner Mark Fong represented Mr. Lee.

The third case was a $1,250,000 settlement in the case of Delgado v. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Retiree Hanna Delgado was walking in a crosswalk in the Inner Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco when she was struck by a Muni bus. She sustained injuries to her pelvis, hip, lower back, and chest. Partner Mark Fong, Associate Seema Bhatt, and Partner Dale Minami represented Ms. Delgado.

Learn more about our personal injury practice.

‘Northern California’s Leading Lawyers’ Publication Recognizes Four Minami Tamaki LLP Cases

‘Northern California’s Leading Lawyers’ Publication Recognizes Four Minami Tamaki LLP Cases

Leaders in the Law recently recognized four Minami Tamaki LLP cases in its recent “Northern California’s Leading Lawyers” publication.

The publication included two new lists recognizing the region’s top verdicts and settlements compiled in partnership with LexisNexis.

Ranked in the Top 20 of both lists were the following cases:

A $3,250,000 settlement in the case of Estate of Lai v. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. 78-year-old Cheng Jin Lai was killed by a Muni bus while riding his bicycle in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco. The bus made him lose control of his bicycle, causing him to fall under the rear wheel of the bus and be killed instantly. Partner Mark Fong, Associate Seema Bhatt, and Partner Dale Minami represented the Lai estate.

A $2,805,000 settlement in the motor vehicle injury case of Paul Hon Chow Lee v. Progistics Distribution Inc. et al. Partner Dale Minami and Partner Mark Fong represented Mr. Lee.

A $1,250,000 settlement in the case of Delgado v. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Retiree Hanna Delgado was walking in a crosswalk in the Outer Richmond neighbor of San Francisco when she was struck by a Muni bus. She sustained injuries to her pelvis, hip, lower back, and chest. Partner Mark Fong, Associate Seema Bhatt, and Partner Dale Minami represented Ms. Delgado.

The $3,574,753 jury verdict in the case of Hagadorn et al v. County of Sacramento and Sacramento County Sheriff ‘s Department. Plaintiffs were four female law enforcement officers who complained about race and gender discrimination and sexual favoritism in the Sheriff’s Department. After their complaints, the Department retaliated against the female officers and derailed their careers. They were removed from their job positions, unfairly disciplined, subjected to punitive investigations, and passed over for promotions and specialty assignments.

The plaintiffs, four Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department officers, were represented by Lisa P. Mak of our consumer and employee rights practice and by The Law Offices of Jerry L. Chong and Alice W. Wong.