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Four Minami Tamaki Attorneys Recognized in 25th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America

Four Minami Tamaki Attorneys Recognized in 25th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America

Minami Tamaki LLP Partners Dale Minami, Minette Kwok, B. Mark Fong, and Senior Associate Olivia Serene Lee were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in the 25th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America.

Dale and Mark were selected for the list in the practice area of Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs. It is the sixth year in a row that they received this honor.

Minette was selected for inclusion in the practice area of Immigration Law. It is Minette’s fifth consecutive time on The Best Lawyers in America list.

Olivia was also selected for inclusion in the practice area of Immigration Law. It’s Olivia’s second listing in The Best Lawyers in America.

Best Lawyers is a respected peer review publication in the legal profession. Recognition in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers.

The Best Lawyers lists of outstanding attorneys are compiled by conducting exhaustive peer review surveys in which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. If the votes for an attorney are positive enough for recognition in Best Lawyers, that attorney must maintain those votes in subsequent polls to remain in each edition.

Lawyers are not permitted to pay any fee to participate in or be recognized by Best Lawyers.

Minami Tamaki Investigating E-Cigarette Makers and Retailers for Allegedly Marketing to Minors

Minami Tamaki Investigating E-Cigarette Makers and Retailers for Allegedly Marketing to Minors

Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group is investigating claims that e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers are illegally marketing vaping products to minors.

On July 24, 2018, the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that her office had opened an investigation into e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc. (“Juul”) and online e-cigarette retailers that sell Juul and Juul-compatible products.

San Francisco-based Juul controls over two-third of the nearly $2 billion U.S. e-cigarette market, according to industry reports.  The company is raising $1.2 billion in funding at an estimated valuation of $15 billion.

Juul vaporizers deliver flavored nicotine, derived from tobacco, through interchangeable pods.  The nicotine pods are available in numerous flavors, such as mango, fruit medley, and crème brulee. Due to their sleek design, Juul devices resemble a USB flash drive and can easily be concealed by underage users.  Users can personalize Juul devices with wraps or “skins,” and decorate them with an array of designs, colors, and images.

Juul has faced increased scrutiny as its products have gained popularity and high schools around the country have reported a rapid increase in their use.  According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, e-cigarette use has increased 900 percent among U.S. high school students from 2011 to 2015.  In June 2018, the city of San Francisco passed an initiative banning flavored tobacco, including Juul pods.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s investigation will look into whether Juul and online retailers have violated consumer protection statutes and e-cigarette regulations by failing to prevent minors from purchasing their products.  Attorney General Healey stating that “juuling and vaping have become an epidemic in our schools with products that seem targeted to get young people hooked on nicotine.”

E-cigarettes have been marketed as helpful in assisting individuals to cut down on smoking.  However, health and anti-tobacco critics argue that their popularity is leading more young individuals to become hooked on nicotine, rather than reducing the purchase of traditional cigarettes.

Individuals interested in receiving more information about Minami Tamaki’s investigation may contact us through our online form. We look forward to speaking with you.

Minami Tamaki Protecting the Elderly against Undue Influence

Minami Tamaki Protecting the Elderly against Undue Influence

Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group represent clients in trust and estate litigation matters, including cases involving financial elder abuse.  Fueled by the aging baby boomer generation, dramatic growth in the elderly population is expected over the next decade.  The increasing size of the elderly population, and the wealth that this population controls, has led to increased concerns of elder abuse.

Elder abuse extends beyond physical abuse and neglect, and often takes the form of financial abuse.  One of the most frequent causes of financial elder abuse is the use of undue influence.

Definition of Undue Influence

A testamentary instrument can be invalidated if it was the product of undue influence.  When an elderly, ill individual makes significant changes to his or her estate plan, questions of whether the changes were the result of “undue influence” may arise.

Under California law, undue influence is defined as excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will and results in inequity.  California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15610.70.  “Undue influence is pressure brought to bear directly on the testamentary act, sufficient to overcome the testator’s free will, amounting in effect to coercion destroying the testator’s free agency.” Rice v. Clark, 28 Cal.4th 89, 96 (2002).  In California undue influence may be proven by circumstantial evidence.  Lintz v. Lintz, 222 Cal.App.4th 1346, 1354-1355 (2014).

Elements Necessary to Prove Undue Influence

Undue influence is proved by establishing (1) the wrongdoer was in a confidential relationship with the decedent, (2) the wrongdoer actively participated in procuring the Trust or Will, and (3) the wrongdoer unduly benefitted from the new document.

Confidential Relationship

There must be a confidential relationship between the party making the will and the person alleged to have exerted undue influence. Estate of Goetz, 253 Cal.App.2d 107, 115-116 (1967).

According to Estate of Rugani, 108 Cal.App.2d 624, 630 (1952), a confidential relationship exists whenever trust and confidence are placed by one person in the integrity and fidelity of another.

Active Participation

There must be activity on the part of the beneficiary in procurement of the will. Estate of Goetz, 253 Cal.App.2d at 115-116.

Active participation cannot be inferred when a beneficiary simply accompanies the testator to the attorney’s office. There must be evidence that the testator went there at the beneficiary’s instigation or request, or evidence that the testator was not acting in accord with his or her own desire. Estate of Lingenfelter, 38 Cal.2d 571, 586 (1952).

Undue Profit

There must be undue profit to the beneficiary. Estate of Goetz, 253 Cal.App.2d at 115-116.

Undue profit can be determined by taking a variety of factors into consideration. The court will evaluate the relationship between the decedent and the beneficiary. They will also consider the dispositions in previous wills and other past expressions of the decedent’s intent. Estate of Sarabia, 221 Cal.App.3d 599, 607 (1990).

Burden Of Proof

In most types of litigation, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof.  However, a plaintiff challenging a testamentary instrument on grounds of undue influence can in some cases shift burden of proof to the defendant when a presumption of undue influence arises.

A presumption of undue influence arises when the plaintiff shows: a confidential relationship existed between the testator and person alleged to have exerted undue influence, there was active participation of the person alleged to have exerted undue influence in procuring the instrument’s preparation or execution, and the person alleged to have exerted undue influence would benefit unduly from the instrument. California Probate Code § 21380 et seq., Rice v. Clark, 28 Cal.4th at 96-97.

Elder Abuse Claims

In undue influence matters, the legal claims alleging Elder Abuse often arise as a corollary issue.  This is important because elder abuse claims are given jury trials, allow for punitive damages, and allow for recovery of attorney’s fees to prevailing plaintiffs.

How We Can Help

Minami Tamaki LLP works to ensure that the rights of all elders are protected.  As California’s population ages, the threat of elder abuse will become an increasingly important issue across the state.

If you or a loved one have concerns about undue influence or financial elder abuse, you may contact us through our online form or call us at 415-788-9000 to set up a free consultation.

As Minimum Wage Increases in San Francisco, Wage Theft Persists

As Minimum Wage Increases in San Francisco, Wage Theft Persists

Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group represents low-wage workers in matters to recover unpaid wages and combat wage theft.  We have represented workers at popular Bay Area restaurants who alleged that they were paid less than $4.00 per hour.  While state and local government have worked to improve labor conditions and increase the minimum wage in recent years, they continue to face resistance from employers who underpay workers and attempt to evade their responsibilities under the law.

On July 1, 2018, San Francisco increased its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, a $1.00 increase that represented the last step in a four-year process to increase the city’s minimum wage.  Further increases in the minimum wage will be dictated by a metric of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Price Index.

Although San Francisco has been preparing for the $15.00 minimum wage for the last four years, some employers have failed to comply with the required gradual increases, and others have underpaid workers in other ways in order to “offset” the minimum wage increases.

On June 7, 2018, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office announced that it had issued cited Kome Japanese Seafood & Buffet and the Rangoon Ruby Burmese Cuisine chain for more than $10 million in wage violations and penalties.  The violations cited included failure to pay minimum wage, overtime, and split shift premiums.  Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus and the Chinese Progressive Association represented many of the affected employees.

On July 2, 2018, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Labor Commissioner had fined the award-winning San Francisco restaurant La Taqueria approximately $600,000 for labor violations, penalties, and other amounts owed to over 30 employees.  The workers who filed claims against La Taqueria were represented by Young Workers United and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus.

Restaurant owners sometimes pay workers at hourly rates far below the minimum wage on the rationale that the servers earn additional compensation from tips left by customers.  However, the state of California requires restaurants to pay employees the full minimum wage for every hour worked in addition to tips earned.

Low-wage immigrant workers and people of color are particularly at risk of being subjected to wage theft.  Immigrant workers in service industries, such as restaurant, janitorial, domestic services, agriculture, and manufacturing are among the most exploited workers in the Bay Area labor market.

Employees may be unaware that they have the right to fair wages even if they are undocumented.  The law protects the right to full payment of wages regardless of immigration status.  Further, an employer’s failure to keep adequate pay and time records is itself a violation of the law and is not a bar to an employee’s claims of underpayment.

Employees who believe they have not received the full amount owed for their work may set up a free consultation with Minami Tamaki by contacting us at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form.

Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2018 Super Lawyers

Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2018 Super Lawyers

We’re proud to announce that all of Minami Tamaki LLP’s Partners and three of our Associates were selected as Northern California Super Lawyers for 2018.

Three of our Partners have been named Northern California Super Lawyers for the last 15 consecutive years. Super Lawyers published a special profile of Partner Dale Minami (see related story).

PERSONAL INJURY
Dale Minami (Top 10, Top 100, 15 years)
B. Mark Fong (Super Lawyers)
Seema Bhatt (Rising Stars)

IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY LAW
Minette A. Kwok (Super Lawyers, 15 years)
Olivia Serene Lee (Rising Stars)

CONSUMER AND EMPLOYEE RIGHTS
Sean Tamura-Sato (Rising Stars)
Lisa P. Mak (Rising Stars)

CORPORATE/NONPROFIT
Donald K. Tamaki (Super Lawyers, 15 years)

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is independent, and attorneys cannot purchase placements on the list.

Super Lawyers Recognizes Dale Minami Among Its ‘Top Ten’ in Northern California for Sixth Straight Year

Super Lawyers Recognizes Dale Minami Among Its ‘Top Ten’ in Northern California for Sixth Straight Year

Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Dale Minami is profiled in a special Super Lawyers article released today along with its new 2018 Northern California lists recognizing the top lawyers in the region.

From the article: “While his civil rights work has received most of the attention, Minami has recovered multimillion-dollar settlements and large verdicts in his personal injury cases. These have provided a financial underpinning, allowing him to help the community.”

Dale has been listed on the Top Ten Super Lawyers in Northern California for six straight years, on the Top 100 list for 13 years since 2005, and every year on the Super Lawyers list since its initial publication in 2004.

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is independent and attorneys cannot purchase placements on the list.

One of the top personal injury lawyers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dale has also been named as one of Northern California’s Best Lawyers by Best Lawyers, recognized three times as one of the 500 Best Lawyers in America by Lawdragon Magazine (2005, 2013-2014, 2014-2015), and in the top 3% of attorneys in the nation by The Legal News.

He has an “AV” rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the highest rating for competence and ethics issued by that publication, and reserved for attorneys designated as outstanding in their field. He is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates forum, which admits only attorneys who have achieved more than one million dollar award for their clients.

We Will Never Stop Fighting

We Will Never Stop Fighting

The Minami Tamaki law firm has a long history of fighting for the rights of people of color, women, immigrants, marginalized people, and others.

Last year we reconvened the legal team that represented Fred Korematsu in the 1980s to reopen his terrible landmark case legalizing the incarceration of entire racial population for no good reason.  We joined the Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law and the law firm of Akin Gump in representing Karen Korematsu, Jay Hirabayashi, and Holly Yasui, the adult children of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Min Yasui, to file an amicus brief in the Supreme Court’s review of the Muslim Ban.

We also created a parallel public education effort through the Stop Repeating History campaign (https://stoprepeatinghistory.org), a project of the MTYKL Foundation.

We needed to remind the Court of the civil liberties disaster 75 years ago, when the Court failed to question the executive branch and simply took its word for it that the incarceration of Japanese Americans was necessary for national security.

Disappointingly, the Court this week upheld the Muslim Ban, 5-4. We have very mixed feelings, and on balance, most of those feelings are negative.  We’re angry but determined to keep fighting.

Here’s one major positive: the Court got one thing partially right. After nearly 75 years, the Court overruled Korematsu, taking “the opportunity to express what is already obvious: Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—“has no place in law under the Constitution.” 323 U.S., at 248 (Jackson, J., dissenting).”  That means a lot to our families who were incarcerated.

But the Court’s repudiation of the decision in Korematsu tells only half the story. Although it correctly rejected the abhorrent race-based relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans, it failed to recognize — and reject — the rationale that led to its infamous decision.

In fact, it repeated its mistakes, rubber-stamping (without asking any questions) the government’s bald assertions that the “immigration travel ban” is justified by national security.  For targeted Muslims, refugees and immigrants, and their children being held in Walmart-turned-into-cages, this week’s ruling is appalling.

Nevertheless, the Court has overruled Korematsu, a very dangerous precedent.

Out of the more than 100 amicus briefs filed in this case, our brief representing Karen Korematsu, Jay Hirabayashi, and Holly Yasui (the children of Fred, Gordon and Min, the WWII challengers) is cited in Justice Sotomayor’s dissent:

“As here, the Government was unwilling to reveal its own intelligence agencies’ views of the alleged security concerns to the very citizens it purported to protect. Compare Korematsu v. United States, 584 F. Supp. 1406, 1418–1419 (ND Cal. 1984) (discussing information the Government knowingly omitted from report presented to the courts justifying the executive order); Brief for Japanese American Citizens League as Amicus Curiae 17–19, with IRAP II, 883 F. 3d, at 268; Brief for Karen Korematsu et al. as Amici Curiae 35–36, and n. 5 (noting that the Government “has gone to great lengths to shield [the Secretary of Homeland Security’s] report from view”).  And as here, there was strong evidence that impermissible hostility and animus motivated the Government’s policy.”

Sotomayor’s dissent nails what’s wrong with the majority’s decision:

“Today, the Court takes the important step of finally overruling Korematsu, denouncing it as “gravely wrong the day it was decided.”  Ante, at 38 (citing Korematsu, 323 U. S., at 248 (Jackson, J., dissenting)). This formal repudiation of a shameful precedent is laudable and long overdue.  But it does not make the majority’s decision here acceptable or right.  By blindly accepting the Government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security, the Court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one “gravely wrong” decision with another.  Ante, at 38. Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments. Because the Court’s decision today has failed in that respect, with profound regret, I dissent.”

Unfortunately, this is likely to embolden Trump to become more extreme, and detention camps are already in the works around the country.

We invite you to join us in continuing this important effort. Your donation to our Stop Repeating History campaign (http://bit.ly/mtykl) will help us fight today’s injustices by educating the country about the shameful legacy left by the Japanese American incarceration.

Together we will continue this fight.

Donald K. Tamaki
Partner, Minami Tamaki LLP
Board of Directors, MTYKL Foundation

Minami Tamaki Investigating False Advertising in Sustainable Seafood Industry

Minami Tamaki Investigating False Advertising in Sustainable Seafood Industry

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating claims that seafood distributors are profiting off of consumers by falsely advertising their products as locally caught and sustainable.

On June 13, the Associated Press (AP) reported that distributor Sea to Table is mislabeling what it markets as “traceable, sustainable, wild-caught American seafood.”

Sea to Table has been praised as “revolutionary” for its “guilt-free” seafood options, and sells seafood to celebrity chefs, fine dining restaurants, and fast-casual chains around the country. Sea to Table claims that its products are directly traceable to a U.S. dock – and sometimes to the exact boat that brought the seafood in.

However, the AP investigation found numerous examples of Sea to Table selling seafood that did not come from its advertised locations. The AP also found Sea to Table offering species that were illegal to catch, out of season, or farmed.

Further, reporters traced the company’s supply chain to migrant fishermen in foreign countries who described labor abuses, including individuals who received little as $1.50 a day for 22-hour shifts.

The global seafood industry has come under scrutiny in recent years for exploiting workers who toil on international waters under abhorrent working conditions.  While Sea to Table markets itself as an alternative to purchasing seafood that is the product of abusive foreign labor conditions, the AP investigation revealed that some of Sea to Table’s suppliers are engaged in this same worker exploitation.

Conscientious consumers are increasingly paying a premium for local, sustainable food.  These consumers make buying decisions seeking to avoid indirectly supporting human rights violations in the global supply chain.  Companies that prey on consumers’ good intentions for their own profit may be in violation of federal law and subject to criminal charges.  The Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are charged with enforcing laws outlawing mislabeling of seafood.

If you have purchased from Sea to Table or wish to obtain more information about seafood marketed as local and sustainable, you may contact us online or call us at 415-788-9000 to set up a free consultation.

Minette Kwok Honored by SF Supervisor Norman Yee as Part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Minette Kwok Honored by SF Supervisor Norman Yee as Part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee today recognized firm partner Minette Kwok as a District 7 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month honoree for her leadership advocating for immigrant families and mentoring the next generation of Asian American leaders.

PHOTO: San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee (left) and Minette Kwok at the May 8 recognition ceremony at San Francisco City Hall for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Photo courtesy of Gerry Okimoto.

Supervisor Yee: “I am proud to honor nationally-recognized immigration attorney, Minette Kwok, partner at the Minami Tamaki LLP firm. For over 25 years, she has advocated on behalf of immigrants seeking to work and contribute to our country. Recently she helped win a state Supreme Court case allowing undocumented immigrants to be licensed as attorneys. On Jan 1, 2018 when Gov. Brown signed a bill into law, California became the first state in the country to license undocumented immigrants as attorneys. Let’s keep fighting for our immigrant communities and standing in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

Congratulations to Minette on this well-deserved recognition!