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Minami Tamaki LLP Law Firm Marks 45th Anniversary Guided by Strategic Leadership Transition

Minami Tamaki LLP Law Firm Marks 45th Anniversary Guided by Strategic Leadership Transition

Dale Minami Transitions to Senior Counsel

When the Minami Tamaki law firm started in 1974, Asian American attorneys faced discrimination in employment and the courtroom, just as Asian Americans did in other aspects of society. The firm’s founders were determined to fight for social justice on their own terms and created a firm that would “do good” while “doing well.”

This was not a simple mission. Asian American attorneys were few and unorganized, and they confronted racial stereotypes and open hostility in the courts. Survival was often precarious and starting from scratch was either a fool’s errand or a fool’s vision.

Forty-five years later, Minami Tamaki LLP and its attorneys remain among the nation’s leading social justice champions while building award-winning and thriving commercial practices in the areas of consumer and employee rights, corporate and nonprofit counseling, immigration and nationality law, and personal injury. The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association recognized Minami Tamaki’s pioneer status with its inaugural APA-Owned Law Firm of the Year Award in 2012.

The firm has received numerous awards and accolades, including top tier rankings on the U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list under the Personal Injury Litigation and Immigration categories for the San Francisco metro area. The firm was also named as one of California’s Top Ranked Law Firms by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell and Best Attorneys in the Bay Area by Bay Area Lawyer Magazine. Minami Tamaki attorneys have been recognized for decades on the Super Lawyers list.

A key component of the firm’s success has been the implementation of a strategic leadership transition that entered its next phase with the promotion of Olivia Serene Lee to Partner at the start of 2019. Olivia’s elevation followed the promotions to the partnership of Sean Tamura-Sato in 2017 and B. Mark Fong in 2014. Olivia, Sean, and Mark joined veteran Partners Minette Kwok and Donald Tamaki in leading the firm.

The transition also includes a new role for personal injury attorney Dale Minami as Senior Counsel. The firm co-founder will continue to guide Minami Tamaki’s involvement in social justice causes, work on business development, and advise other attorneys on cases.

Dale has been listed on the Top Ten Super Lawyers in Northern California for six straight years, the Top 100 list for 13 years since 2005, and every year on the Super Lawyers list since its initial publication in 2004, all in the Personal Injury category. He has also been named one of Northern California’s Best Lawyers, recognized three times as one of the 500 Best Lawyers in America by Lawdragon Magazine (2005, 2013-2014, 2014-2015), and listed in the top three percent of attorneys in the nation by The Legal News.

During his legal journey, Dale tried cases in many different areas of law:  criminal defense, personal injury, employment discrimination, commercial contract disputes, child custody disputes, juvenile and dependency hearings, conservatorships, mechanics’ liens, and unlawful evictions.

Dale represented clients in administrative forums such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Merit Systems Protection Board, Unemployment Development Department, California Labor Commission, and in university grievance hearings. He has also handled incorporations, wills and trusts, probate matters, dissolutions of marriage, entertainment and newscaster contracts, life story rights, endorsement and book contracts, and other talent negotiations.

Dale played a crucial role in the firm’s long history of fighting for the rights of people of color, women, immigrants, marginalized people, and others. In addition to building a successful law firm, he co-founded the Asian Law Caucus, the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans, and many other organizations.

Early in his career, Dale served as lead counsel in numerous landmark cases involving the rights of Asian Pacific Americans:  Chann vs. Scott, a class action lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Department to enjoin the unconstitutional arrests and detention of young Asian Americans, United Pilipinos for Affirmative Action v. California Blue Shield, the first class action employment lawsuit brought by Asian Pacific Americans on behalf of Asian Pacific Americans, Spokane JACL v. Washington State University, a class action on behalf of  Asian Pacific Americans to establish an Asian American Studies program at Washington State University and Nakanishi v. UCLA a claim for unfair denial of tenure which resulted in the granting of tenure after several hearings and widespread publicity over discrimination in academia.

Perhaps Dale’s most significant case was overturning Fred Korematsu’s 40-year-old conviction for challenging the U.S. government’s order that resulted in the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.  Korematsu’s conviction was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in a landmark decision in 1944. In 1983 Dale, Don, and a group of young lawyers presented evidence of massive government misconduct in the Supreme Court case, and convinced Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California to set aside Korematsu’s conviction.

In 2017, Dale, Don, and the legal team that represented Korematsu in the 1980s reconvened to represent the adult children of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Min Yasui, and filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of the Muslim ban. This group also created the Stop Repeating History public education campaign to educate the public about the Japanese American incarceration and the present-day dangers of similar policies targeting individuals based on race, national origin, or religion.

After 45 years, thanks in large part to Dale, the Minami Tamaki LLP law firm’s commitment to social justice remains strong, aided by dynamic changes to the firm’s leadership and its community-oriented approach to practicing law.

Remarks by Donald Tamaki at San Jose Day of Remembrance 2019

Remarks by Donald Tamaki at San Jose Day of Remembrance 2019

I’m not going to lie to you.  I’m here to implore you—to exhort you—to get active—whether in small or big ways.  Doing nothing is not an option. Here’s why.

We are witnessing history repeat itself.  The incarceration of Japanese Americans— 77 years ago— has become more relevant than ever.  We have 3 branches of government— the Executive—the Legislative—and the Judiciary—each co-equal, and each designed to be a check and balance on the other.  The common thread binding what happened to Japanese Americans —and what’s happening now—is the utter failure by Congress and the Supreme Court— to hold the Executive Branch accountable to the rule of law and the Constitution.         

On June 26, 2018, by a 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawaii upheld Trump’s so-called “Travel Ban,” the thrice-revised executive orders barring entry of people from Muslim-majority nations—and which continues today to separate American families.  

When Trump announced the Travel Ban in 2017, travelers having nothing to do with terrorism were detained,—U.S. residents were stranded abroad, —and families were separated. Thousands of validly issued visas were canceled. Hundreds with such visas were prevented from boarding planes or denied entry on arrival—, including refugees running for their lives—from war and terrorism who had already undergone a stringent vetting process.

Invoking “national security,” —the government claimed that a Homeland Security report justified these actions. However, not only did the government refuse to reveal this report, —but it  asserted that the Court must bow to the will of the President—giving him near-absolute authority to impose—in Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s words—“an exclusionary policy of sweeping proportion.”

Citing Trump’s speeches and tweets —replete with anti-Islamic animus and calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,”—opponents—including Japanese Americans—argued that the Travel Ban has little to do with security—and instead, was the bigoted “Muslim Ban” that Trump had promised on the campaign trail.

Echoes of 1942 when another executive order, 9066, led to the incarceration of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans. Against the challenge of Fred Korematsu, the government exhorted the Court not to “second-guess” the judgment of the military—that locking up these Americans was necessary to the nation’s safety.

Shamefully, the Court reasoned that “if the government tells us the lock-up is a “military necessity” —then who are we to question the government?” The Court abdicated its constitutional role as a check and balance on the Executive Branch,—and the result— was a civil liberties disaster.  

The gravity of the Court’s surrender was underscored in 1983 when secret WWII-era Navy, FBI, and FCC reports and Justice Department memoranda surfaced —admitting that Japanese Americans had committed no wrong—posed no threat—and characterizing the Army’s claims that Japanese Americans were spying as “intentional falsehoods.” These reports were never presented to the Court, having been suppressed, altered or destroyed.

Arguably, the Court’s relegation of itself —to being a mere “rubber stamp”— opened the door for this massive fraud to occur.  It stands to reason that if the courts look the other way when the President invokes “national security”—the temptation for leaders to twist the facts—to engage in falsehoods and fabrications to achieve a political end—is likely to be irresistible.  

The founders of this nation understood this—so they established a system of checks and balances—to thwart the rise of kings—and tyrants.    

Fast forward to the Court’s decision in Trump v. Hawaii —wherein Chief Justice John Roberts declared—“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.”

A laudatory statement to be sure, but do these words have any meaning? While repudiating Korematsu, the Court’s affirmation of Trump’s Muslim Ban—ironically reinforced one of Korematsu’s  most dangerous elements—by allowing the government’s invocation of national security—to shield it—from any judicial inquiry verifying whether the Ban has any basis in fact—or reason.

The decision penned by Justice Roberts is reminiscent of Justice Hugo Black’s opinion in Korematsu. Black wrote that racial discrimination is — “odious to a free people,” —and ruled that when the government makes distinctions based upon race, — the Court must subject such distinctions to the “most rigid scrutiny” — to verify that they are based on “imminent threats to public safety.”

However, after making this laudatory pronouncement, Black failed to apply it—, dismissively concluding that putting Japanese Americans in concentration camps—had nothing to do with racial hostility— and finding that the mass round-up was a— “military necessity.” Why? “Because the military tells us so”.  

Justice Roberts makes a —similar—pivot. He pronounces Korematsu “overruled,” —but in the same breath, —dismissively concludes that Korematsu has nothing to do with the Travel Ban.

Worse, despite Trump uttering the most bigoted statements in modern political campaign history since George Wallace declared “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”— Roberts accepts the President’s word for it —that the ban is necessary to make the country safe—turning a blind eye to all of his racist and anti-Islamic statements— and without requiring the government to disclose the Homeland Security report— claimed to contain the facts justifying the ban.

Sotomayor describes this “blind” court deference to the President as an affront to the Judiciary’s role as the independent third branch in America’s checks-and-balances democracy. “Our Constitution demands… a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred commitments.”

Looking back to 1944, Justice Robert Jackson warned in his scathing dissent— that “Korematsu lies around like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority who could bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.”

The Court’s Travel Ban decision should worry every American—the Court has reloaded this weapon—and essentially imported the Korematsu precedent into a new vessel—Trump versus Hawaii.

The parallels between Korematsu and the Travel Ban are disturbing—both arose out of war, both featured the government invoking “national security” to shield its actions from judicial scrutiny— both had abundant evidence of prejudice expressed by high officials against a targeted minority— both involved hidden intelligence reports that the government refused to disclose— and both ended with the Court failing to question—whether such sweeping deprivations of fundamental freedoms  were necessary for the nation’s safety—or were merely the fulfillment of racist policies and bigoted campaign promises.

Emboldened by the Court’s unwillingness to be a check on the abuse of Presidential power, Trump tweeted — no due process for undocumented immigrants, including those lawfully seeking asylum.  So even Laura Bush is connecting the dots, stating— “Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities… These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent—now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

Why does this matter?

It matters because “Trump sent thousands of soldiers to the border to terrorize a distant caravan of desperate migrants —and announced plans to end — [by executive order] —the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship”.  He has separated children from their parents, —demonized American-born citizens as “anchor babies”—slashed refugee visas by more than half—and pejoratively labeled family reunification policies as “chain migration.”

Trump promised his base to build a wall. In fact—he promised that Mexico would pay for it. Two days ago—after a 34-day shutdown of the government in which Congress expressly refused to appropriate funds for his wall—Trump has declared the border a “national emergency”, attempting to seize funds by edict—and override Congress’ exclusive constitutional authority— over the purse.

Do you see a pattern here?  When Japanese Americans were locked up— it was done on the basis of a phony claim of “military necessity.” —When Trump fulfilled his campaign promise for a ban on Muslims entering the country— it was based on a phony claim of “national security”. —Now Trump seeks to usurp the constitutional authority of Congress—based on a phony claim of a “national emergency.”

If neither the Congress nor the Court has the will to hold this President accountable to the Rule of Law—and if the public no longer has a common understanding of what “facts” are due to Trump’s lies, deceit, and his assault on the free press as “the enemy of the people”—Folks—this is how dictators get started.

Let me circle back to my personal plea to you.  I know that I don’t have to convince any of you that Trump’s attacks on democratic institutions are unlike anything we have ever seen. I see my purpose here today as reminding you in this room —that you—have something to say about history repeating itself:

  • For Japanese Americans, we’ve experienced this.  —We know the consequences when there is no check and balance—on the unbridled exercise of power by a President.

 

  • The legal principle that the courts should bow to the will of the Executive Branch when it invokes “national security”—started during the Chinese Exclusion Act cases of 1882—was extended through Korematsu—and has been reaffirmed in Trump v. Hawaii.  This principle will again be before Courts in Trump’s manufactured “crisis” at the border. 
  • A great many Americans in the U.S. today— especially Asian Americans—Chinese, Korean—South Asian—are the direct result of 1960’s reforms in immigration policy that led to the reunification of their families—now pejoratively labeled “chain migration” — which Trump proposes curtailing. 
  • Moreover, —but for the availability of refugee visas for families running for their lives,  Asian Americans of Southeast Asian ancestry—Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Hmong—would not be here. —Jews and other marginalized groups—certainly understand the importance of refugee visas. 

My point is that if we look back into our own family histories—we are one or two degrees of separation from the immigrants, refugees, and Muslims currently in the cross-hairs.

What are we to do?  Well, speechifying is not going to get the job done.  We need to get involved. I realize that most of us cannot travel to Maine, Colorado, Arizona, the Central Valley, or the Midwest to register voters or do voter education.

But you can support organizations— that are fighting to preserve the Rule of Law.  We can give and raise money. You have $25? Throw a party for you and your friends—ask for $25 each–$5 for the booze, and $20 to support advocacy organizations, citizenship classes, voter registration and education, etc. If you need suggestions of how you can get involved—talk to me.   

Yes, this takes commitment, it takes sacrifice, it takes some pain, and to be sure, it will take some of your time—and money.

But the country is going in a dangerous direction— history is repeating itself—

And know that in making things right— nothing is free.   

Remember the words of Frederick Douglass: — “Power concedes nothing without a demand—it never has and it never will.  You may not get all that you pay for this in this world— but you must certainly pay for all that you get.”

So today— we’re making a down payment for Justice.
No one is above the law—not even a President

We’re going to do what generations have done before us—
Stand together—
March together—
Organize together—

And do the work necessary to change this culture—
Change hearts and minds—
And take our country back.  

There is no time to lose.
Doing nothing is not an option.
Let’s —get —busy.

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