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Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2018

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2018

Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys Dale Minami, Don Tamaki, Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Seema Bhatt recently attended the annual National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) National Convention in Chicago. The Convention had over 2,000 Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law students, and elected officials attending from around the country.

This year, Dale, Don, and Karen Korematsu (Founder & Executive Director of The Fred T. Korematsu Institute) were awarded the NAPABA President’s Award.  This award recognizes NAPABA members who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to NAPABA, the legal community, and the broader APA community.

Dale, Don, and Karen received this year’s award for their work on the “Stop Repeating History” campaign (StopRepeatingHistory.Org), which educates the public on the dangers of unchecked presidential power and the parallels between the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the current administration’s policies targeting minority groups based on race or religion.  In his award acceptance remarks, Don urged APA attorneys to lead on this issue due to our communities’ experience with racist and xenophobic immigration policies.

Partners Donald K. Tamaki (left) and Dale Minami (right) meeting audience members after their panel on the Korematsu v. United States and Trump v. Hawaii cases.

Don and Karen also spoke on a panel with Hoyt Zia (an original founding member of NAPABA), and moderated by Dale, about the parallels between the Korematsu v. United States and Trump v. Hawaii cases.  Don and Dale were members of the legal team that overturned Fred Korematsu’s conviction for his defiance of Japanese American exclusion orders during World War II.  

The panel discussion was preceded by a screening of the powerful film, “And Then They Came For Us,” which compares the Japanese American incarceration with the Muslim travel ban.  The film, produced by Peabody award-winning director Abby Ginzberg, won the 2018 ABA Silver Gavel Award, and has been a cornerstone of the “Stop Repeating History” campaign.

Associate Lisa P. Mak (second from left and on screen) served as panelist for a plenary session on the #MeToo movement.

Lisa was a panelist for a convention plenary luncheon session entitled “Beyond #MeToo: How Asian Americans Can Challenge Sexual Harassment in the Workplace,” with about 1,000 attendees.  The all-women panel discussed the impact of the #MeToo movement in the workplace, strategies to improve equality for women in the legal industry, and the unique challenges of addressing sexual harassment in APA communities.  During her remarks, Lisa emphasized the importance of being upstanders and allies for harassment victims in order to create a cultural change for the fair treatment of women.

Our firm also helped to sponsor the NAPABA Solo & Small Firm Network (SSF) stipend program, which provides funds for SSF committee members to attend the conference and future NAPABA events.  “Minami Tamaki is a longtime proponent of SSF’s work, including the committee’s CLE Bootcamp that provides legal skills training and business advice to SSF attendees at the Convention. The firm is proud to contribute to SSF’s mission of building and supporting APA-owned law firms,” said Partner Sean Tamura-Sato.

Partner Sean Tamura-Sato (left), Associate Lisa P. Mak (right), with other attendees at one of the NAPABA convention lunches.

This year, the late San Francisco Mayor Edwin Mah Lee was honored with the Daniel K. Inouye Trailblazer Award, NAPABA’s most prestigious award which recognizes the outstanding achievements, commitment, and leadership of lawyers who have paved the way for the advancement of other APA attorneys.  The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) spearheaded the nomination of Mayor Lee for this award.

Our firm congratulates outgoing President Pankit Doshi from San Francisco for his successful leadership this year. Daniel Sakaguchi, also from San Francisco, was sworn in as the new NAPABA President. Both Pankit and Daniel are members of AABA, which was co-founded by Dale Minami over 40 years ago.

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

Photo credits: John B. Lough, Lisa P. Mak, Betty Hsu, Winston Liaw

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 (, 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 ( 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

Remarks by Donald Tamaki in Tribute to Mayor Ed Lee

Remarks by Donald Tamaki in Tribute to Mayor Ed Lee

Partner Donald Tamaki paid tribute to the late Ed Lee, Mayor of San Francisco, at the Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus annual dinner on April 27, 2018.

Dear Anita, Tania, Brianna, Friends: Much has been said about Ed as a loving husband, and father, and as one of the City’s great and historically significant Mayors.

But I don’t think that even the staff of the Asian Law Caucus knows that for 13 years while Ed worked there, he played a crucial role in developing the organizing strategies that the Caucus has used for the past 40 years.

Even in law school Ed understood the limits of the legal system in effectuating change in Chinatown which had one of highest concentrations of poverty in the City, the highest population density, the highest rates of TB–where sweatshop and restaurant workers were paid far less than minimum wage.

You know–a legal challenge has a beginning and an end–and when the case is over, you hope that your client is in a better place–but that’s usually the end of it. Moreover, most of the root problems of the poor and powerless–are not redressable in court—they are instead the result of political, social, and economic inequities. The fact that City Hall used to ignore Chinatown was not a “legal” problem.

Ed knew how much more effective the Caucus would be if it combined its legal advocacy with community organizing such that when the legal case is over,  there is a tenants’ union, a labor union, community institutions in place that will continue fighting to level the playing field, not only in the courts, but in every other arena that matters–transforming the struggle for justice from a singular legal complaint to a social movement that ultimately changes hearts and minds and shifts the balance of power and policy.

Ed pioneered combining aggressive legal advocacy with community organizing, an approach that continues to this day at the ALC. So while we laud this man’s tremendous accomplishments, let it be remembered that the legacy that Ed left behind with the Caucus and with this City is more about the future than it is the past.

By shining a light and reflecting upon Ed’s unflagging commitment to serve, it also lights the way forward—not only for the Asian Law Caucus—but for anyone who loves justice.

Lisa P. Mak Joins Board of The Bar Association of San Francisco

Lisa P. Mak Joins Board of The Bar Association of San Francisco

Minami Tamaki attorney Lisa P. Mak recently started a two-year term on the board of directors of The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF).

The BASF board has two seats designated for representatives of the Minority Bar Coalition. Lisa was selected by the Coalition for one of the seats. She served as co-chair of the Coalition in 2017 and continues to serve on its board.

The Minority Bar Coalition (MBC) is a network of over 40 diverse bar associations dedicated to working in a unified manner to advance the cause of diversity in the legal profession. MBC does this by sharing best practices and resources in bar association programming and advocacy, finding issues of common cause, and building shared platforms.

“I hope to contribute to BASF’s commitment to engage our members with service opportunities, educational programs, and community advocacy,” said Lisa. “I want the legal community to know about the meaningful work this organization has been doing, especially in the current political climate. I’m also excited to continue working with both BASF and the MBC to drive our shared goals of increasing diversity in the legal profession.”

Lisa’s new BASF role is an extension of her ongoing leadership in the community and in the legal profession. She serves on the boards of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, and is Co-Chair of the Diversity Outreach Committee of the California Employment Lawyers Association.

Lisa is part of our Consumer and Employee Rights Group and passionate about protecting the rights of consumers and employees as individuals and in class actions. Her practice includes employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, defamation, contract claims, and labor code violations. She is experienced in litigation, from pre-litigation negotiations to trials and appeals. Lisa also advises employees on employment contracts and severance agreements.

PHOTO: Minami Tamaki attorney Lisa P. Mak (left) with other members of the BASF board.

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 ( 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).

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.

75th Anniversary of E.O. 9066 in the Spotlight at Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference

75th Anniversary of E.O. 9066 in the Spotlight at Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference

Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Dale Minami joined Judge Marilyn Hall Patel (Northern District of California), Judge Mary Schroeder (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) and Karen Korematsu at the recent Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference to discuss Korematsu v. U.S. and the persisting relevance of the government’s malfeasance in the Japanese American incarceration during World War II.

The annual Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference is a prestigious invitation-only forum that includes judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. district courts and lawyers practicing in these courts. This past conference was held July 17-20 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in downtown San Francisco.

The conference included a special program marking the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and the presidential directives that led to the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans citizens during World War II.

The program focused on the extraordinary search for justice by Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui – who waited four decades to be exonerated of criminal convictions for violating government orders based on the dangers posed by Japanese Americans, claims that were later proven false.  Documents admitting their falsity by government lawyers were suppressed and other evidence discounting the danger of Japanese Americans were altered, destroyed or suppressed from Supreme Court review.   In addition to historical accounts, the discussion focused on the imperfect balancing of civil rights and national security during a period of national uncertainty.

“The court gave almost complete deference to the military, and they refused to look at any underlying facts in the justification for the incarceration,” said Minami. “The duty of the courts is to judge any decision by any person on constitutional law – nobody is above the constitution. Those issues are still relevant today, as we well know.”

Judges Patel and Schroeder who authored the decisions in the Korematsu and Hirabayashi cases, respectively, told poignant stories of how the cases affected them and became some of the most significant rulings in their long and respected careers.  Karen described the ostracism her father suffered from his own community for challenging the Military Orders and appealing to the Supreme Court for relief.

Read more about the program in this article on

Dale to Speak on Korematsu Case at Japan Society Event on Aug. 24

The Japan Society of Northern California has invited Dale to speak at its event on August 24, 2017, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Dentons law firm, Spear Tower, 1 Market Plaza, San Francisco.

Dale will share details of the Korematsu coram nobis team’s successful effort in 1983 to overturn the conviction of Fred Korematsu, whose defiance of the World War II Japanese American exclusion order led to Korematsu v. United States, one of the most controversial United States Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century.

The Korematsu cases remain highly relevant today as our nation wrestles with issues of race, ethnicity and immigration. Earlier this year a Ninth Circuit federal judge referred to the Korematsu case to raise questions about President Trump’s proposed ban on visitors from Muslim-majority countries.

For more information about the August 24 event, visit

Spotlight on Mark Fong’s Work with Chinatown Community Development Center

Spotlight on Mark Fong’s Work with Chinatown Community Development Center


Minami Tamaki Partner B. Mark Fong (right in photo) and other members of the firm attended Chinatown Community Development Center’s (CCDC) 39th Gala and Tribute to Rose Pak on October 7. More than 800 guests joined together to pay tribute to Rose, including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr., and current Mayor Edwin Lee.

CCDC is a community development organization primarily serving Chinatown, North Beach and the Tenderloin. The organization plays many roles: neighborhood advocates, organizers and planners, and developers and managers of affordable housing.

Mark has served on the CCDC board of directors since 2013. He’s currently the chair of the board’s Governance Committee.

In late 2015, Mark worked with staff at CCDC to develop two Public Service Announcements which ran on Chinese television station KTSF to educate drivers and pedestrians on ways to avoid pedestrian accidents.

At least 800 pedestrians are hit by cars in San Francisco every year. In 2014 alone, 17 pedestrians died in the City. Seniors in particular face the greatest risk for being fatally injured when hit by cars. For many years, Minami Tamaki LLP has engaged in efforts to raise awareness of pedestrian safety, especially among seniors in areas such as San Francisco’s Chinatown and Japantown.

As a board member – and someone who grew up in Chinatown – Mark is proud that CCDC recently assumed responsibility from the San Francisco Housing Authority to own and manage the Ping Yuen housing projects, along with other public housing in the Chinatown cluster — a total of seven buildings with 576 units of deeply affordable housing for families and seniors in the heart of Chinatown.

Ping Yuen was built in 1955 and the buildings have never been substantially renovated until now. Under CCDC’s management, the Pings will be upgraded to meet seismic, structural, mechanical, electrical and safety standards, and each of the units will be renovated.

“This will require relocation of the tenants while work is being done, after which they will be invited to return,” said Mark. “This is a huge project which has required CCDC to increase the number of its staff to ensure the project runs smoothly and tenant relocation is handled with sensitivity.”

As a result of diminishing federal funds and declining investments in public housing, Mayor Lee selected Chinatown CDC and other nonprofit housing developers to participate in HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which has brought in new resources to rehabilitate public housing such as the Pings.

Nonprofits such as CCDC depend on community members like Mark to help provide leadership and assistance.  Says Mark, “Even though I grew up in Chinatown, serving on the CCDC board has taught me a lot about this community, and has given me the opportunity to support an organization which has made a tremendous impact to improve the quality of life for people not just in Chinatown but the City as a whole.”

Olivia Serene Lee to Chair AILA NorCal Chapter for 2016-2017

OLeeOlivia Serene Lee, an associate in our Immigration Practice Group, was selected as the 2016-2017 Chair for the Northern California Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA NorCal).

Olivia began serving as Chair on July 1. She has served on the AILA NorCal Executive Board for the past three years.

She has been actively involved in AILA NorCal since 2009, leading and organizing more than 30 Continuing Legal Education programs in all aspects of immigration law, including prosecutorial discretion, export control, PERM, waivers, asylum, and events with immigration judges, USCIS, CBP, DOL and asylum officers. She also served as faculty on local and national AILA CLE panels on topics such as O-1s and H-1Bs.

“It’s an honor to serve the AILA community,” said Olivia.  “Our Chapter is incredibly diverse, ranging from nonprofit attorneys, experts in crimmigration issues, advocates for universal representation in immigration court, to family and business immigration attorneys.  We must stay dialed-in to the current affairs at home and around the world that may impact immigration. With the presidential elections this year, immigration issues will be at the forefront of political debates, and the outcome of our presidential elections may have a lasting impact on our immigration system.”

Olivia recently participated in an immigration lobby day in Washington, DC, to advocate for immigration reform, and she served as the chapter co-liaison to the San Francisco USCIS Field Office. She also spoke on a NAPABA panel in Arizona on the topic of immigration.

AILA is the national bar for immigration attorneys, and AILA NorCal is one of its larger chapters, with over 850 members.