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Partner Olivia S. Lee Selected as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation

Partner Olivia S. Lee Selected as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation

Minami Tamaki LLP congratulates Partner Olivia S. Lee on her selection as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, an honor society of the nonprofit founded by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1952.

American Bar Foundation Fellows are limited to one percent of the lawyers of each state. They are selected from the legal sector’s leadership who have demonstrated outstanding dedication to the welfare of their communities and the highest principles of the profession.

The American Bar Foundation is a research institute committed to the principle that a deep understanding of the law is vital to a more just, equitable world. It conducts rigorous, empirical research that explores the intersection of law and society—creating insights that underpin today’s most pressing issues and affect millions of people every day. 

Although the ABA created the Foundation, it remains an independent organization, ensuring research projects have full academic freedom and are not influenced by the views of the ABA. Its interdisciplinary approach yields nonpartisan and actionable research that people and institutions use to shape laws, inform policy, and influence society.

Olivia’s selection as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation highlights her continued leadership in the legal profession and the community. She serves as an Elected Director on the Board of Governors American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and a member of the Editorial Board for AILA’s Law Journal.

Olivia also serves on the ABA’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council and helped to draft the ABA’s 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge for AAPI Heritage Month. She is also a Board Member of Chinese for Affirmative Action.

In recognition of her work, Olivia received an AILA Presidential Commendation in 2021, AILA’s Annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award in 2022, and the Unity Award from the Minority Bar Coalition in 2018.

Mark Fong to Take Senior Counsel Position at Minami Tamaki LLP

Mark Fong to Take Senior Counsel Position at Minami Tamaki LLP

Minami Tamaki LLP today announced that Partner B. Mark Fong will transition to a Senior Counsel position, effective January 1, 2024.

Mark has led Minami Tamaki LLP’s personal injury practice since 2019 after Dale Minami transitioned to a Senior Counsel position. He became a Partner in 2014 after joining the firm in 2006.

As the Partner in charge of the firm’s personal injury practice, Mark has worked together with attorneys Seema Bhatt and Ember J. Oparowski to continue the practice’s success in fighting for the rights of people who are injured or suffered the loss of loved ones due to the carelessness of others.

“Mark played a critical role as a bridge between the new generation of firm leadership and the founding Partners,” said Dale Minami. “When Don Tamaki, Minette Kwok, Jack Lee, Brad Yamauchi, and I planned our transitions, we depended on Mark to provide the firm with the institutional knowledge critical to serving our clients and continuing our tradition of community service.”

Dale continued: “Mark became a dynamic and effective leader of our Personal Injury Practice Group, who expanded the capacity of our group far beyond my tenure and achieved great victories for our clients. We were lucky to have him join our firm years ago!”

After January 1, 2024, Mark will continue to provide his expertise on personal injury cases alongside Senior Counsel Dale Minami, Senior Associate Seema Bhatt, and Associate Ember J. Oparowski, with Managing Partner Sean Tamura-Sato as the practice head of litigation. In addition to his trial work, Mark will continue to help guide Minami Tamaki’s involvement in the community, work on business development, and advise other attorneys on cases.

Recognized as one of the top personal injury lawyers in the Bay Area, Mark was a finalist for “Trial Lawyer of the Year” by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association in 2019 and made the Northern California Super Lawyer list for 12 years as well as the Top 100 list in 2015 and 2016.

The Personal Injury practice group received a Tier 1 ranking in the 2015 through 2022 Editions of U.S. News-Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” under the category of Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs for the San Francisco metro area.

Mark’s cases were recognized by Top Verdict’s Top 50 and Top 100 Settlements in California in 2016, and by Leaders in the Law in its “Northern California’s Leading Lawyers” 2017 publication.

Mark is a Fellow of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), one of the most prominent organizations of trial attorneys in the country, whose members are selected by invitation only upon demonstration of significant jury trial experience. He is also a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Mark has been rated “AV Preeminent” by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory for the past three decades, signifying the highest level of legal ability and professional standards of ethics.

Mark is a third-generation San Franciscan with roots in Chinatown and has spent much of his life giving back to the community he grew up in. For more than a decade he has served on the board or committees of Chinatown Community Development Center, and for six years on the board at Donaldina Cameron House. He also served on the board of Town School for Boys, of which he is an alumnus.

Mark received his B.A. in Political Science with high honors in 1978 from the University of California Berkeley, and his J.D. from UC Law San Francisco (formerly UC Hastings ) in 1981. Mark was admitted to the California Bar in 1981 and is also admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Northern and Eastern Districts of California.

Dale Minami on Panel at UCLA Rebellious Lawyering Conference

Dale Minami on Panel at UCLA Rebellious Lawyering Conference

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami participated on a panel at the Rebellious Lawyering Conference, held October 5, 2023, at UCLA School of Law.

Dale presented on the roundtable, “One Hell Of A Radical Ride – The Past, Present, And Future Of,” along with moderator Shauna Marshall (Professor Emerita and Co-Director of the Center for Racial and Economic Justice, UC College of Law, San Francisco) and panelists Martha L. Gómez (Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice); Gina Hong (Attorney and Collective Member, LA Center for Community Law & Action); and Sunita Patel (Assistant Professor of Law, Faculty Director, UCLA Veterans Legal Clinic, UCLA School of Law).

UCLA Law’s Critical Race Studies program devoted the symposium to looking at the practice of rebellious lawyering, past, present, and future. The approach was introduced by Gerald P. López in his 1992 book “Rebellious Lawyering: One Chicano’s Vision of Progressive Law Practice.”

Dale met Gerald on a basketball court at the University of Southern California and they traveled very similar paths while becoming great friends. Professor López influenced and inspired a generation of attorneys to practice law creatively for the disadvantaged. “He is a hero to me,” said Dale.

Through “fictional characters and settings as real as can be,” Rebellious Lawyering illuminated how people do what they do when collaborating with others as equals. To fight subordination of every sort. To transform institutions, systems, nations, and transnational life. To personify – and not just prefigure – the concrete utopias they seek. Militantly challenging subordination in all forms and transforming life as we know it are at the center of the rebellious vision.

Dale and the other panelists founded and helped develop organizations, programs, and agencies that, working with individual clients and subordinated communities and diverse allies, challenged the racism, misogyny, classism, homophobia, xenophobia practiced by employers, landlords, local and state governments; that forced the United States to admit and to repair the generational damage it caused through the internment of Japanese Americans; that held universities accountable for illegal denials of tenure and for the neglect of low-income, of color, and immigrant communities surrounding campuses; that overturned school districts’ racist targeting of Latinx and Black students for suspension and expulsion and challenged governmental targeting of Muslims in the wake of 9/11. 

The panelists have called out everything from the failure of all government to provide robust support for unhoused and housing-insecure populations to the self-promoting regnant practices pursued by well-heeled public interest “impact organizations” and high volume “service work.”

$925,000 Settlement in Department Store Injury

$925,000 Settlement in Department Store Injury

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Associate Seema Bhatt and Associate Ember Oparowski demonstrated exceptional legal acumen in securing a $925,000 settlement for our client who suffered a crush injury to her foot at a department store in Petaluma.

The case presented significant challenges: there were no eyewitnesses and the defense strongly contested the circumstances of the incident as well as the extent of injuries.

Undeterred, our team employed a strategic approach. Despite the initial lack of evidence, we uncovered crucial information by conducting a thorough investigation. We found former employees who revealed the décor item that caused the injury was improperly placed in violation of store policy and created a falling hazard when jostled by customers, which is what we believe happened to our client.

We also enlisted the expertise of seven medical specialists to meet the defense’s claim that our client had no objective injury. An EMG (nerve) test conducted by a renowned doctor revealed nerve damage in the client’s foot. Furthermore, our vocational rehabilitation and functional capacity experts provided compelling evidence that our client’s injury significantly impacted her ability to re-enter the workforce, even at a desk job.

Our thorough and multifaceted approach culminated in a $925,000 settlement two weeks before the trial. This outcome vindicates our client’s claim and underscores our firm’s dedication to uncovering the truth and advocating for our clients in even the most challenging cases.

Don Tamaki Joins Leadership of New Reparations Alliance, Secures Additional Endorsements of Reparations Task Force Report

Don Tamaki Joins Leadership of New Reparations Alliance, Secures Additional Endorsements of Reparations Task Force Report

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Donald K. Tamaki joined a distinguished group of leaders and organizations in the launch of Alliance for Reparations, Reconciliation, and Truth on November 16.

The California Black Power Network (CBPN), Equal Justice Society (EJS), and six former members of the California Reparations Task Force – Dr. Cheryl Grills, Lisa Holder, Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Senator Steven Bradford, and Don –  announced the new collaboration.

The Alliance’s mission is to educate the public about reparations; amplify the California Reparations Task Force’s report and its recommendations; achieve broad-based, multi-racial public support of reparations; and grow the base of multi-racial and multi-sector allies who support reparations in California.

The Alliance also includes a growing list of Black-led and non-Black ally organizations such as Black Equity Collective, Catalyst California, AAPIFORCE, PICO California, Nikkei Progressives, and Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (NCRR).

Statement from Don Tamaki: “Now that the task force has accomplished its objectives, this new alliance will carry the torch and help drive the movement forward. We have a societal obligation to repair the harms that began in 1619 and continued through every chapter of American history thereafter, right to the present day. We call upon the Legislature to develop a feasible approach, spanning years, in good economies and bad, to study the 115-plus recommendations and address the harms that have been decades, if not centuries, in the making.”

The historic report by the California Reparations Task Force draws a throughline from the harm of 246 years of enslavement, 90 years of Jim Crow and racial terror, and decades more of continuing discrimination, resulting in today’s grossly disparate outcomes for Black Californians. The report includes 115-plus policy recommendations to the California State Legislature to stop the harm from continuing and to determine a feasible long-term approach to address the harms that were centuries in the making.

A May 2023 poll from UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies found strong support in California for a range of reparations measures for Black Americans, particularly those focused on systemic reforms and investments in communities.

Don, with former Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Minette Kwok, and together with Holder and Dr. Grills have spent months organizing philanthropic support for repairing the harm and obtaining endorsements from nearly 600 0organizations and businesses supporting the report or the study of reparations in California. View the list of endorsements and sign on at https://supportreparations.org

Japantown Foundation Osechi Ryori Fundraiser Returns in January After Four Years

Japantown Foundation Osechi Ryori Fundraiser Returns in January After Four Years

The San Francisco Japantown Foundation’s annual New Year’s fundraiser returns for the first time post-COVID and again features Osechi Ryori, the traditional dishes carefully prepared and presented for the New Year to wish for good health, happiness, and prosperity.

The event is on Thursday, January 4, 2024, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco’s Japantown. This special dining experience is made possible through the generous assistance of the owners and chefs at Sanraku, Sushi Ran, Delica, Iichiko, and more. Buy tickets online.

Managing Partner Sean Tamura-Sato and Senior Counsel Donald Tamaki are on the board of directors of the Japantown Foundation. The January 4 event is a special occasion, marking the end of Don’s 17 years as Board President, although he will remain on the board.

In December 2006, Don led the formation of the foundation through generous endowments by Kintetsu Enterprises of America, Jack Hirose, Hats and Amey Aizawa, Union Bank, and Minami Tamaki LLP. Since 2007, the Foundation has raised and issued grants totaling $1,422,700 in support of the Japanese American community.

The Osechi Ryori event is the Japantown Foundation’s primary fundraiser and funds the organization’s grants to Japantown and Japanese American-related nonprofit organizations.

Osechi Ryori refers to many unique dishes that are prepared once a year to celebrate the New Year. Many of the items require hours of preparation, and are preserved in ways to make sure that they are delicious to eat throughout the first three days of the year–the traditional way of celebrating the Japanese New Year.

From the Japantown Foundation website: “Many of us remember waking up on New Year’s Day to have our bowl of ozoni and then patiently wait as all of the other osechi items were unveiled by our grandparents and great grandparents for us to eat. Being able to eat osechi ryori today, however, is a rarity.

“That is one of the reasons the board of the SF Japantown Foundation continues to hold our annual Osechi Ryori event. It allows us to introduce and re-introduce the special food items that are prepared during the New Year that will bring us good luck, good health and prosperity throughout the year.

“With the generous assistance of our restaurant partners, we are able to share authentically prepared osechi dishes that are expressly prepared for the event. We sincerely thank our culinary experts for supporting us in carrying on this important culture and tradition.”

Learn more at https://japantownfoundation.org.

Ember Oparowski Published Case on COVID-related Delays

Ember Oparowski Published Case on COVID-related Delays

Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Ember Oparowski was the lead attorney for the defendant in a case that resulted in the only published case on COVID delays and a plaintiff’s diligence in prosecuting cases within the statutory five-year period mandated by Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310.

Ember defended a stucco contractor in a high-end construction defect case. The plaintiff homeowners refused to provide dates for deposition, meaningfully participate in mediation, provide responses to written discovery, and created numerous obstacles in advance of trial.

Ember drafted and argued a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute the case. Her motion was granted and the case was dismissed. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment and ordered the opinion published.

Although this appellate decision stands for a fairly discrete legal issue, it is believed to be the only published case on COVID delays and a plaintiff’s lack of diligence in prosecuting cases within the statutory five-year period. The case demonstrates Ember’s dogged representation of her clients and the use of creative legal strategies to obtain a favorable result.

$3.85 Million Settlement for Injured Cyclist

$3.85 Million Settlement for Injured Cyclist

Minami Tamaki LLP Partner B. Mark Fong and Senior Associate Seema Bhatt recovered a $3.85 million dollar settlement for a 52-year-old cyclist who was struck by a car while riding to his job as an aircraft cleaner at San Francisco International Airport.

The initial facts of the case were unfavorable. Based on witness statements the police concluded our client ran the red light, causing him to be struck by the defendant, a Canadian citizen driving a rental car. Our client also tested positive for methamphetamine at the hospital.

Through tenacious investigation, we were able to obtain security video from the airport that showed our client entered the intersection on a green light, and the driver struck him before he had a chance to clear it. Based on this, the police prepared an amended report which found the driver at fault for the crash. We also argued the drug in our client’s system did not cause the driver to run the red light.

Our client suffered significant orthopedic injuries and bleeding on his brain in the crash. His case was further complicated when he suffered a stroke two years after the crash, which could have been caused by his methamphetamine use. At mediation, Mark and Seema obtained a settlement of $3.85 million dollars for the client, which will allow him to fulfill his dream of reuniting his family in the United States.

Don Tamaki and Lisa Mak Honored with 2023 Minority Bar Coalition Unity Awards

Don Tamaki and Lisa Mak Honored with 2023 Minority Bar Coalition Unity Awards

Congratulations to Minami Tamaki Senior Counsel Don Tamaki and Senior Associate Lisa P. Mak on receiving Unity Awards from the Minority Bar Coalition for their efforts to promote the cause of diversity in the legal progression in the San Francisco Bay Area community.

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area nominated Lisa. who is a former President of AABA. The Alameda County Bar Association nominated Don. Don and Lisa received their awards on November 9, 2023, at Golden Gate University School of Law.

The Minority Bar Coalition 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.