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Minette Kwok Joins American Immigration Council Board of Trustees

Minette KwokMinami Tamaki LLP Partner Minette A. Kwok will join the national Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council, effective June 2012.

Based in Washington, D.C., the American Immigration Council has played a leading role in the national debate over immigration reform. With its focus on advocacy, public policy, litigation and education, the AIC is dedicated to changing the way Americans think and act towards immigrants, and committed towards advancing fundamental fairness and due process for immigrants.

“The AIC sits on the cutting edge of immigration law and policy, and I’m excited to be a part of it, “said Kwok. “Its leadership represents all that is outstanding, forward thinking, and compassionate within the immigration bar.”

“The Trustees voted unanimously to have Minette join the Board. She is a perfect fit for our organization given her expertise, demonstrated leadership, and contributions to the immigrant community,” said Board of Trustees Chair Kirsten Schlenger, managing partner of Weaver Schlenger Mazel LLP.

Ms. Kwok heads the immigration practice group at Minami Tamaki LLP, which focuses primarily on business immigration, representing startups and Fortune 500 companies in the IT, engineering, clean energy, and manufacturing industries, guiding employers through mergers/acquisitions, reduction in force, and phenomenal growth.

She has served as a Commissioner with the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization’s Immigration and Nationality Law Advisory Commission; as Chair of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Northern California; and as Liaison to the Department of Labor, Region IX.

Minette has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer by Law & Politics Magazine for eight consecutive years, was selected as one of the Top 50 Female Northern California Super Lawyers, and has been awarded an AV rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the highest rating for competence and ethics issued by that publication, reserved for attorneys designated as outstanding in their field.

Landmark Brinker Decision Clarifies Employer’s Burden to Provide Breaks, Continues Use of Class Actions

By Kevin R. Allen, CERG Practice

On April 12, 2011, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Brinker v. Superior Court (S166350). The opinion was highly anticipated because it could have potentially, on one extreme, eliminated wage and hour class actions based on break claims altogether or, on the other extreme, made employers strictly liable for missed breaks regardless of fault.

In finding a middle ground, the decision has a little something for everyone. With respect to meal periods, it held that an employer satisfies its obligation to “provide” a meal period “if it relieves an employee of all duty” for an uninterrupted 30-minute break and does “not impede or discourage” employees from taking this break. Once an employer meets this obligation, it is “not obligated to police meal periods and ensure no work is performed.” The court clarified that the employer must provide a first meal period after no more than five hours work and a second meal period after no more than ten hours of work, as opposed to every five hours as was argued by plaintiffs in the case.

The Supreme Court held that an employer satisfies its burden to “authorize and permit” a 10 minute rest break for each four hours of work “or major fraction thereof” through 10 minutes of rest break time for shifts of three and half hours to six hours, 20 minutes for shifts of more than six hours up to 10 hours, and 30 minutes for shifts or more than 10 hours and up to 14 hours, and so on. Rest breaks can occur at any time during the shift, either before or after the meal period.

Lastly, the Court indicated that there is no per se rule against using the class action device to address meal and rest breaks: “Claims alleging that a uniform policy consistently applied to a group of employees is in violation of the wage and hour laws are of the sort routinely, and properly, found suitable for class treatment.”

Dale Minami Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Alameda Democratic Group

Dale Minami photoPartner Dale Minami on March 29 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus of Alameda County at their 7th Annual Membership Dinner in Oakland Chinatown.

The Caucus also honored Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-prizewinning reporter who revealed in mid-2011 that he was an undocumented immigrant, sparking a national discussion about immigration and the impact of immigration policies on Asian Americans.

The Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus of Alameda County was officially chartered in March 2005. It is the first ever chartered club focusing on Asian Pacific Americans in Alameda County, formed to ensure equal participation in and support from the Democratic Party of Alameda County.

Dale has been recognized as one of the top personal injury attorneys in the Bay Area and leads Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury practice. He also represents clients in the entertainment industry.

Kevin Allen on SCU Law Panel on Employment Law

Kevin Allen on SCU Law Panel on Employment Law

Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Kevin R. Allen was one of three attorney panelists at the March 28 Employment Law Practice panel presented by the Labor and Employment Law Society at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

Kevin, an SCU alumni from 2005, was asked to participate in order to provide the plaintiffs’ perspective and to discuss issues related to litigating complex wage and hour class actions. The other panelists included defense attorneys, and fellow SCU alumni, Ernie M. Malaspina, a shareholder at Hopkins & Carley in San Jose and Alisha Louie, an associate at San Francisco’s Payne & Fears LLP.

Kevin graduated from SCU’s law school in the top 10 percent of his class. He was also a Technical Editor for the Santa Clara Law Review and received a Witkin award in both Antitrust and Criminal Procedure.

Seth Rosenberg Selected for National Trial Lawyers Honor

Seth Rosenberg Selected for National Trial Lawyers Honor

Seth RosenbergSeth I. Rosenberg, a Senior Associate in the firm’s Personal Injury practice, was recently selected as a member of National Trial Lawyers Association: Top 40 under 40, an invitation-only honor extended exclusively to those individuals who exemplify superior qualifications, trial results, and leadership as a young lawyer.

Selection to the National Trial Lawyers Association: Top 40 under 40 is based on a thorough multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research. The result is a credible, comprehensive and impressive list of young attorneys chosen to represent their state.

The Top 40 under 40 is restricted to only 40 attorneys per state per year. Attorneys must also specialize in the areas of civil plaintiff or criminal defense law.

Seth specializes in representing plaintiffs in state and federal courts, as well as in arbitration proceedings. He has obtained jury verdicts, arbitration awards, and settlements for his clients totaling millions of dollars. He successfully represents clients in all types of personal injury cases, including premises liability, vehicular negligence, products liability, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. His trial verdicts and settlements have been featured in many California legal periodicals, including The Recorder and The Daily Journal.

Senior Counsel B. Mark Fong, also in the firm’s Personal Injury practice, was selected in Oct. 2011 to be a member of the National Trial Lawyers, which is composed of the top 100 trial lawyers from each state.

Recorder: ‘LCD Makers to Pay $539M to Settle Civil Antitrust Suits’

The Recorder last week reported on a case in which Minami Tamaki partner Jack Lee is the court-appointed liaison. See article below.  Bloomberg also reported on the settlement.

The plaintiffs in the case allege that Samsung, Hitachi, Sharp and others “engaged in a worldwide, multiyear conspiracy to fix prices and hinder competition related to TFT-LCD panels, which are in TVs, notebooks and monitors.”

LCD Makers to Pay $539M to Settle Civil Antitrust Suits
By Ginny LaRoe, The Recorder
December 23, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — On the heels of a plaintiff-friendly ruling in the TFT-LCD antitrust litigation, a group of manufacturer defendants is poised to settle for $539 million.

Co-lead plaintiffs’ counsel Francis Scarpulla of Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason and Joseph M. Alioto of Alioto Law Firm filed a motion for preliminary settlement approval on behalf of indirect purchaser plaintiffs and state attorneys general on Friday. They asked U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to sign off on a deal to resolve price-fixing claims against Samsung, Hitachi, Sharp, Chimei, Chunghwa, Epson and HannStar.

Plaintiffs allege the makers engaged in a worldwide, multiyear conspiracy to fix prices and hinder competition related to TFT-LCD panels, which are in TVs, notebooks and monitors.

The filing comes after Illston earlier this month rejected defendants’ renewed bid to toss the case for lack of antitrust standing on the part of indirect purchaser plaintiffs, saying the plaintiffs alleged injuries and the direct link between defendants’ alleged anti-competitive conduct “place this case squarely within the type of suit the antitrust laws were meant to address.”

Earlier this year a group of defendants settled with direct purchaser plaintiffs for around $388 million.

Plaintiffs asked for a Jan. 20 hearing before Illston, who presides over the consolidated multidistrict litigation and related criminal action.

Minami Tamaki partner Jack Lee is the court-appointed liaison in the action.

Confirmation of Judge Edward Chen a Highlight of 2011


Edward M. Chen’s confirmation to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the U.S. Senate in May 2011 was one of this year’s highlights, capping off an almost three-year bruising battle fought by numerous community members and legal advocates, including Minami Tamaki Partner Dale Minami.

In Aug. 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Chen, who was serving as a federal magistrate judge for the Northern District of California since April 2001. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California recommended to the President that Judge Chen be appointed as an Article III judge.

Judge Chen earned a sterling judicial record and gained the support and respect of all sectors of the bar. His nomination came from a bipartisan advisory committee and was strongly supported by multiple bar associations, law enforcement officials and prosecutors. The American Bar Association bestowed its highest ranking, “unanimously well qualified,” upon him and the Bar Association of San Francisco rated him “exceptionally well qualified,” a distinction reserved for only the most exceptional candidates.

Judge Chen was the first Asian Pacific American to be nominated to the Northern District Court judge bench to the court that rendered many infamous civil rights decisions affecting Asian Pacific Americans – including United States v. Korematsu and Yick Wo v. Hopkins. Notably, Judge Chen was also part of the original legal team that overturned the conviction of Fred Korematsu, 40 years after the fact.

Unfortunately, opponents of Judge Chen blocked his appointment mostly because of his work with the ACLU as a Staff Attorney some 10 years earlier. The President had to re-nominate Judge Chen twice because of partisan gridlock. In a Feb. 2010 editorial, “Edward Chen: Portrait of a Patriot,” the San Francisco Chronicle, said that Chen had “become a target of the type of ideological smear campaign that corrodes the level of public discourse as the vacuous vitriol echoes in the blogosphere and on talk radio.”

A powerful community effort quickly mobilized to support Judge Chen. More than 2,500 supporters from around the country endorsed letters of support for him. The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA), Asian American Justice Center, American Constitution Society, and numerous other organizations rallied to press the Senate for Judge Chen’s confirmation. His nomination languished for more than 600 days, until May 10, 2011, when the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Chen.

Several months later in September, more than 800 friends, family and supporters attended Judge Chen’s induction ceremony in San Francisco. The historic occasion included remarks by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware, Judge Charles Breyer and Dale Minami.


In his remarks at the ceremony, Minami, a long time friend of Judge Chen’s described the two Ed Chen’s – the “Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Ed” personalities, one who displayed legal brilliance, the commitment to justice, and enormous compassion and another with a perverse and occasionally clever sense of humor and great loyalty to his family, his friends and his community.

Dale noted the balance Judge Chen achieved during a successful but sometimes difficult life overcoming the early death of his father and older brother and helping his single mom who raised four sons, he was lucky enough to meet and marry Janet Lee Chen and raise two kids, Tara and Luke.

“From our first meeting in a class I taught at Berkeley, to his work with our Korematsu team and now his ascension to the Federal bench, Judge Chen has maintained his friends, his values, his humility, humanity and goofy sense of humor”, said Minami. “He will continue to be a great jurist and we are proud, relieved and joyful at this investiture!”

All photos by Dexter Washington Photography

‘The Two Eds and a David’ Show

Minami Tamaki Partner Dale Minami was asked to participate with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Judge Chen (the “Two Eds”) and Attorney General of Hawaii David Louie at two special events

The first event, sponsored by the Chinatown Historical Society of America in San Francisco, honored Mayor Lee, Judge Chen and Attorney General Louie for their remarkable ascension to public positions in 2011. Having known all three honorees for over 35 years, Minami had the honor of introducing each of them, who coincidentally lived together in the same household while law students at U.C. Berkeley.

On October 1, Minami moderated a panel discussion at U.C. Berkeley’s School of Law that featured, Judge Chen, Mayor Lee, Attorney General Louie, as well as Holly Fujiye, another graduate of Boalt, and former President of the State Bar of California among other notable achievements, and Judge Ralph Ongekko of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Judge Ongekko was as a former roommate of Judge Chen and Mayor Lee.

The panelists shared with the diverse audience stories about their respective journeys to prominence and success. The Civil Rights Movement was a significant influence, as was their experiences at Boalt Hall, which encouraged the pursuit of social justice.

Minami remarked during the panel that he first thought that their individual successes were a coincidence, but noted that demographics and the confluence of the opportunities afforded to Americans and the ambition of immigrant families made their accomplishments inevitable.

JCCCNC Celebrates Japan Earthquake Relief Fund Volunteers


Brad Yamauchi, a Partner at Minami Tamaki, and a member of the board of directors of the Japanese Community and Cultural Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) spoke on behalf of the firm at a volunteer appreciation luncheon held Dec. 3 for the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.

More than 100 volunteers attended and received updates on how over $4 million in contributions is being spent in Northern Japan over the long term. With connections to the YMCA organizations in Japan from the 1995 Kobe earthquake relief efforts, JCCCNC was able to immediately obtain and distribute emergency food and supplies to many affected areas through thousands of YMCA and other local volunteers.

The priorities are now shifting to longer term recovery assistance such as mental health programs, shelter assistance, sports equipment and art and educational supplies that help families to get back to normal lives and activities.

The Minami Tamaki law firm played an important role in this effort, sending out requests for donations and with a matching funds campaign raised almost $500,000 from more than 2,000 donors. Lynda Won-Chung and Dale Minami lead the effort with many hours of work by Brenda Jackson, Kim Nieves, Mami Malandra, Cristina Campos and Gail Lang.

The Minami Tamaki fundraising focused on making sure that a high percentage of the donations received were spent on direct services rather than administrative overhead, which JCCCNC accomplished. But the organization has also used about $200,000 of its fiscal reserves to pay for administration of the relief fundraising operations, and is now in need of donations to help offset those costs.

In his presentation, Brad emphasized that donors wanted to donate to organizations with integrity and experience to be confident that donations would be used wisely and effectively. In this regard, knowing that there were hundreds of volunteers helping existing JCCCNC staff to perform thousands of hours of relief work speaks volumes about the JCCCNC membership and its communty support. Donors can be proud of and trust in JCCCNC’s work and integrity.

JCCCNC organized two visits to Northern Japan since the March 11, 2011, tsunami. The most recent was in early November with Kristi Yamaguchi in collaboration with her Always Dream Foundation. That delegation provided a connection to actual beneficiaries of the the donated funds at several events in the loactions most devastated by the tsunami.

Because many fear the radioactivity, residents there face shunning and isolation, the delegation was one of very few that visited Fukushima, the site of the damaged nuclear power station. Paul Osaki, JCCCNC Executive Director, described a touching scene during this visit. A young Japanese girl came up to him, held his hand and with sad eyes looked up at his face for several minutes. Later he was told that her father had died from the tsunami and that he resembled him. Donations and the presence of those who care matters.

Our contributions, whether money or time, are needed for this relief effort and for so many other worthy causes. Thank you all for your contributions that make life better for those in need.