Blog

Dale Minami Reflects on California’s 100-Plus API Judges Milestone

Dale Minami Reflects on California’s 100-Plus API Judges Milestone

By Dale Minami

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) recently held a celebration of California’s 100 Asian Pacific Islander (API) judges, a significant milestone in our history.

In 1976, when we began a concerted campaign to appoint API and other minority judges to the California Bench, there were only 15 API sitting Judges. With the election then of a new, liberal Governor, Jerry Brown, we saw an opportunity to get appointments to diversify our Judiciary.

In Northern California at that time, there were no API judges in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, or San Mateo counties, one in Santa Clara, one in Sacramento, and two in San Francisco. One of those two in San Francisco was Judge Harry Low who has continued to support AABA to this day!

But first we had to find qualified candidates, no easy task since there was not a large pool of API attorneys at that time. One, however, was Ken Kawaichi, who became the first API judge in Alameda County. Another was Lillian Sing who became the first API woman judge in Northern California. And as the pool of qualified candidates grew, we obtained many more appointments over the years leading to last month’s celebration. Today, we have approximately 130 API sitting judges in California, which is an incredible achievement for our community.

The impact of these diverse appointments cannot be overstated. When I first appeared in courts in 1972, I was met with hostility, implicit bias, and outright racism. One judge refused to appoint an interpreter for my Cantonese client, asking “Well, why don’t you interpret for him?” to which I explained that I was Japanese and that my client was Chinese, and the two ethnic groups came from different countries and had different languages.

Reluctantly, and with great sarcasm, he accepted the explanation and appointed an interpreter. On another occasion, I was about to enter a judge’s chambers for a pre-trial hearing in a criminal case when I heard him say “There sure are a lot of niggers out there” to the District Attorney who was already in chambers. And when I entered the room, he tried to defuse the racism of his comments by making an apparent joke of his slur – “And a lot of chinks too!” Subtle racism was also manifested in the supercilious dismissal of arguments, condescension towards minority attorneys, and outright favoritism to non-API attorneys and their clients.

But I’ve learned that having one person of color or one from a marginalized group on the bench can modify the behavior of the entire court. After Ken was appointed, the overt and subtle discrimination seemed to subside. And the appointment of Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, the first woman jurist on the United States District Court in Northern California, changed the culture of that bench.

But modifying the overt or covert behavior of judges toward attorneys of color and their clients is not the only reason to diversify the bench. We all benefit when the judiciary truly reflects the communities that it serves. The legal system engenders respect when justice is dispensed by qualified jurists who look like us and our clients.

Decisions are made with greater sensitivity by jurists who have empathy through their own experiences, an understanding of historical perspectives, and an appreciation of how their decisions affect different communities. It may be no coincidence that most of the decisions made against President’s Trump’s travel ban and separation of immigrants at the border were made by API judges in Hawai’i, Maryland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

So why have the ranks of API jurists increased dramatically in the last 40 years? Obviously, our pool of candidates has increased as dramatically and those willing to take the risk to apply have increased. When we see API judges on the bench, it encourages others to believe they can also be appointed.

We were fortunate to have leaders such as Governors Jerry Brown and Pat Brown, and Judicial Appointments Secretaries such as now Justice Anthony Kline, Sharon Majors Lewis, and Joshua Groban, who are committed to diversity. We know that newly appointed Appointments Secretary, former state appellate court Justice Martin Jenkins, is also committed to diversity and will walk that same path.

And significantly, we have witnessed the growth and assertiveness of the API bar associations who are actively recruiting, lobbying and mentoring judicial candidates. In fact, one of the central reasons we started AABA was to gain representation in the courts, the bar, and in the legal community. AABA has made a powerful and successful effort to accomplish this goal.

But there is much to be done. We need to continue pushing for a diverse judiciary from all communities of color and increasing representation. Also, when judges are being challenged for reelection because of their appearance, or their “foreign” sounding names, or because of the political affiliation of the governor who appointed them, rather than for their competence and qualifications, we need to stand up and offer strong support. The diversification of the bench is too important and took too much effort to go backwards now.

Photo via Lisa P. Mak.

Lisa Mak Elected Secretary of AABA, Joins NAPAWF Legal Advisory Board

Lisa Mak Elected Secretary of AABA, Joins NAPAWF Legal Advisory Board

Associate Lisa P. Mak (fifth from left in photo) was elected Secretary of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA), one of the largest Asian American bar associations in the nation and one of the largest minority bar associations in California. She also starts her second term on the AABA board of directors.

Lisa was a presenter at an AABA MCLE “mini-marathon” on January 23 in San Francisco in a session titled “Mind the Gap: Pay Equity and the Legal Profession” in which she discussed the Federal and California Equal Pay Acts, pay equity issues in the legal profession, pay equity litigation, and best practices for addressing pay inequity.

Lisa also joined the new Legal Advisory Board of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). The board consists of experienced, practicing attorneys who are passionate about NAPAWF’s mission and work and will advise and support the work of the legal program and its Director as the program develops. NAPAWF is the only national, multi-issue Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women’s organization in the country, dedicated to building a movement to advance social justice and human rights for AAPI women and girls.

Photo via Charles Jung.

Twelfth Annual Dale Minami Berkeley Law Alumni Fellowship Dinner: ‘Asian Americans in the Era of Resistance’

Twelfth Annual Dale Minami Berkeley Law Alumni Fellowship Dinner: ‘Asian Americans in the Era of Resistance’

The 12th Annual Dale Minami Public Interest Fellowship Dinner was held on January 25 at Harborview Restaurant in San Francisco. Bryan Springmeyer and Vina Ha founded the fellowship in 2007 to support outstanding Berkeley Law graduates who commit to serving the public interest.

This year’s fellowship dinner theme was “Asian Americans in the Era of Resistance” and featured Daniel Sakaguchi as the fellowship’s Berkeley Law Alumni Honoree and the selection of Christina Yang as the 2019 Dale Minami Public Interest Fellow.

In remarks at the event, firm partner Don Tamaki said: “The parallels between the Korematsu case and the travel ban are very disturbing. … Both involved the government invoking national security in order to shield its decisions from judicial scrutiny. Both involved high officials targeting a minority with racist … sentiment, and both involved hidden government reports that the government refused to disclose for which it claimed was the basis of this sweeping deprivation of civil liberties. And lastly, both ended in the courts standing down, not asking any questions, abdicating its role to be a check and balance on the unbridled exercise of executive power.”

Minami Tamaki LLP was proud to be a sponsor of this event.

Photo via Lisa P. Mak.

Don Tamaki Leads SF Japantown Foundation to Another Successful New Year’s Celebration Fundraiser

Don Tamaki Leads SF Japantown Foundation to Another Successful New Year’s Celebration Fundraiser

Minami Tamaki LLP sponsored the San Francisco Japantown Foundation annual New Year’s Celebration on Jan. 10, an event that raised $176,000 to support the Foundation’s mission to support cultural, community and educational activities in San Francisco Japantown.

Firm partner Donald Tamaki has served as the Foundation’s board president since the organization was founded. He also co-chaired the event with board members Diane Matsuda and Jerry Ono.

The Foundation was formed in December 2006 through generous endowments by Kintetsu Enterprises of America, Jack Hirose, Hats and Amey Aizawa, Union Bank and Minami Tamaki LLP.

The event, which was held at the Hotel Kabuki, featured Osechi Ryori, a traditional Japanese New Year’s cuisine and featured dishes and drinks from Sushi Ran, Pabu Izakaya, Sanraku, Izumiya, Super Mira, DELICA, YamaSho, Azuma Foods, Ito En, Iichiko, True Sake, Aiya, and Takara Sake.

Since 2006, the Japantown Foundation has provided grants to nonprofit projects that support Japantown and the Japanese American community. The Foundation held the fundraiser to involve more individual donors to support the future of Japantown and the Japanese American community.

The Foundation is dedicated to preserving and honoring Japantown’s history; welcoming and serving its residents, visitors, businesses, congregations and community organizations; and supporting the growth and development of the community’s Japanese cultural theme.

See photos of the event.

Video: Don Tamaki on the Role of Bar Organizations in Advancing Representation

Video: Don Tamaki on the Role of Bar Organizations in Advancing Representation

Donald Tamaki, Minami Tamaki LLP Partner and community leader, discusses in this video the progress made in advancing Asian American representation in the legal community and about the work yet to do.

This is the first in series of videos by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area with prominent Asian American attorneys and judges.

Lisa P. Mak Wins Appeals Court Decision Allowing Client to Pursue Harassment Claims in Court Instead of Forced, Private Arbitration

Lisa P. Mak Wins Appeals Court Decision Allowing Client to Pursue Harassment Claims in Court Instead of Forced, Private Arbitration

On December 13, 2018, the California First District Court of Appeal affirmed the ruling of the San Mateo Superior Court that our client, plaintiff Marisol Gutierrez, was not required to submit her sexual harassment claims against her former employer to forced arbitration.

Marisol Gutierrez began working for Flying Food Group LLC (FFG) in food and liquor assembly in the fall of 2012. At that time, Ms. Gutierrez joined Unite Here! Local 2, the union that represented certain classes of FFG employees according to the collective bargaining agreement between FFG and the Union. Ms. Gutierrez alleged that during her employment at FFG, she was subjected to verbal and physical sexual harassment at work by male supervisors and co-workers.

In May 2015, Minami Tamaki filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Gutierrez in San Mateo Superior Court against FFG for sexual harassment and hostile work environment, failure to prevent sexual harassment, and national origin discrimination, all in violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Immediately after Ms. Gutierrez filed this case, FFG filed a petition to force the case into private arbitration based on the Union’s collective bargaining agreement. In private arbitration, legal claims are usually decided by a sole arbitrator without a jury trial, and the decision would be binding with limited grounds for appeal. The trial court agreed with Ms. Gutierrez that she did not have to arbitrate her statutory discrimination claims because the arbitration language was not clear and specific enough in the collective bargaining agreement. FFG immediately appealed the trial court’s ruling, delaying the case for another two years.

The appellate court unanimously upheld the lower court’s order in Ms. Gutierrez’s favor. Specifically, the appellate court followed the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Wright v. Universal Maritime Service Corp. and held that in the context of a union collective bargaining agreement, the requirement to arbitrate statutory discrimination claims must be clearly and unmistakably stated, including specifying the statutes that will be subject to arbitration. The appellate court also held that the Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, favoring enforcement of arbitration agreements under the Federal Arbitration Act, did not apply here because the collective bargaining agreement did not include any agreement to arbitrate statutory discrimination claims. This ruling means Ms. Gutierrez can pursue her statutory harassment claims in court instead of a forced, private arbitration.

Julia Macri Joins Minami Tamaki’s Immigration Practice

Julia Macri Joins Minami Tamaki’s Immigration Practice

Julia Macri has joined Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Nationality Law practice group as an Associate.

Julia has more than eight years of experience providing immigration solutions to multinational companies and individuals, having worked in Europe, Canada, and the United States. She has performed immigration audits for Fortune 500 companies and overseen the development of global programs for growing companies.

She provides advice on all aspects of immigration, including nonimmigrant and immigrant status. Julia has extensive experience working on extraordinary ability cases (from movie directors to regulatory affairs managers), outstanding researcher cases (from software engineers to molecular biologists), and complex requests for evidence. She has also worked on numerous successful appeals to the Administrative Appeals Office.

Julia is a member of the California State Bar and the Law Society of Upper Canada. She received her Honors Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto, where she majored in history, and obtained her Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Ottawa. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, including the Global Migration Section. She was also a member of the Global Migration Section’s 2017-2018 Steering Committee and she is currently Vice Chair of AILA’s Global Migration Section’s Audiovisual Committee

Olivia Serene Lee Named Partner at Minami Tamaki LLP

Olivia Serene Lee Named Partner at Minami Tamaki LLP

The Minami Tamaki LLP law firm has named Olivia Serene Lee as Partner, effective January 1, 2019. She has been an attorney in the firm’s Immigration and Nationality Law practice since January 2009.

“We are so thrilled to have Olivia join the partnership,” said Minette Kwok, the firm partner who leads the Immigration and Nationality Law practice. “She brings her dedication, smarts, rainmaking, vision, and heart to this next generation of leadership to the firm. The future of Minami Tamaki LLP is in good hands.”

Olivia’s expertise is in counseling companies on a variety of employment-based immigration matters. She regularly advises on immigration matter for companies in all phases, including pre-formation, funding, accelerator/incubator programs, acquisitions and mergers, spinoff, and public offering.

She has been recognized as a Northern California Super Lawyers Rising Star from 2014-2018 and listed in the 2018 and 2019 Best Lawyers in America for Immigration Law. Olivia was instrumental in Minami Tamaki LLP being recognized with a top ranking on the U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list in the Immigration category.

Olivia this year also received a Unity Award from the Minority Bar Coalition in her role in championing diversity and inclusion for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Northern California Chapter and for AILA National.  She is a leader and former chair of AILA NorCal and currently serves on AILA National’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Olivia served as 2016-2017 Chair for AILA NorCal and previously as a member of the AILA NorCal Executive Board.  AILA is the national bar for immigration attorneys, and AILA NorCal is one of its larger chapters, with over 1000 members.

She has also met with Congressional offices in Washington, DC, and in the local San Francisco area to advocate for immigration reform. She served as faculty on local and national AILA CLE panels on topics such as O-1s, H-1Bs, and business immigration litigation in federal court.

Olivia received her Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law in 2008. She was admitted to the California Bar in 2008 and is also admitted to practice in the United States District Court, Northern District of California.

The Immigration and Nationality Law practice group of Minami Tamaki LLP offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services, routinely assisting employers and employees in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. The practice group also helps individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships.

Minami Tamaki Investigating Marriott Data Breach

Minami Tamaki Investigating Marriott Data Breach

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating Marriott’s recent announcement of a massive data breach involving its Starwood guest reservation database.  Marriott announced on November, 30, 2018, that this breach exposed the personal information of up to 500 million customers.

Marriott revealed that hackers were able to copy information in the Starwood guest reservation database that included passport numbers, credit card information, Starwood Preferred Guest (“SPG”) account information, travel details, and/or other personal information.

According to Marriott’s data breach website, the company received an alert from an internal security tool on September 8, 2018, regarding an attempt to access the Starwood guest reservation database.  Marriott launched an investigation in response to this attempt, and then learned that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network dating back to 2014.

Customers who booked and/or stayed at numerous Starwood properties may have been affected by the data breach. Starwood brands include: W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Element Hotels, Aloft Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts, Four Points by Sheraton, Starwood timeshare properties, and Design Hotels that participate in the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program.  Marriott International became the largest hotel chain in the world in 2016 after acquiring Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide in 2016.

Marriott announced that it has begun sending e-mails about the data breach to affected guests on a “rolling” basis. If you booked or stayed at a Starwood property and wish to discuss this matter, you may contact us at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form.  We look forward to the opportunity to speak with you.