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.