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Claire Y. Choo New President of San Mateo County Trial Lawyers Association

Claire Y. Choo New President of San Mateo County Trial Lawyers Association

Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Claire Y. Choo on January 1, 2021, began her one-year term as President of the San Mateo County Trial Lawyers Association (“SMCTLA”). Claire is the first attorney from Minami Tamaki LLP to serve as SMCTLA President.

Founded in 1967, SMCTLA is the leading professional organization for plaintiff’s attorneys in San Mateo County. In addition to serving as a network for members, SMCTLA provides professional advancement programs, events fostering relationships with the county’s judiciary and elected officials, and scholarships for students interested in careers in civil law or criminal justice.

As SMCTLA President, Claire sits on the Board of Directors of the Consumer Attorneys of California. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (“AABA”) and is an active member in several bar associations, including the American Association for Justice.

She continues Minami Tamaki’s tradition of leadership in bar associations. Associate Lisa P. Mak serves as Vice President/President-Elect of AABA. Partner Sean Tamura-Sato also serves on the AABA Board. Senior Counsel Dale Minami is a co-founder of AABA and of the Asian Pacific Bar of California. Partner Suhi Koizumi is a past president of the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California. Partner Minette Kwok served as a Commissioner on the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization Immigration and Nationality Law. Associate Seema Bhatt serves on the board of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California. Other firm attorneys have served in numerous positions with various bar associations and legal organizations.

As an attorney in Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group, Claire represents clients in a wide range of cases, such as insurance bad faith, consumer fraud, catastrophic personal injuries, and aviation-related actions.

She has significant litigation experience in individual, class, and collective actions in state and federal courts across the country. Claire has also served as trial counsel in several cases. In 2016, she was second chair in an action against the State of California which resulted in a $9.5 million total verdict for a family who suffered the wrongful death of a family member.

Claire has been recognized as a Northern California Super Lawyers Rising Star from 2013 to 2019. She was also recognized as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers in 2019.

Don Tamaki on Podcast with Dahlia Lithwick: ‘Truth, Reconciliation, and Korematsu v. US’

Don Tamaki on Podcast with Dahlia Lithwick: ‘Truth, Reconciliation, and Korematsu v. US’

Listen to the podcast here and read the transcript on slate.com.

Don Tamaki joined U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen as guests on Dahlia Lithwick’s “Amicus” podcast to explore what lessons we can learn from history when the Justice Department has been complicit in a cover-up.

The incarceration of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans in the 1940s is one of the most shameful acts in American history. Judge Chen and Tamaki, members of the Korematsu legal team, discuss the overlooked context, corruption, and cover-up that enabled the policy, and to examine how the Supreme Court has yet to fully contend with the legacy of Korematsu v United States. They also unpack the lessons the case offers for the present moment.

Donald K. Tamaki is a Senior Counsel at Minami Tamaki LLP. Prior to January 1, 2021, he was the firm’s Managing Partner. In 2017, Don helped create the StopRepeatingHistory.org public awareness campaign dedicated to educating the public about the dangers of unbridled presidential overreach.

The campaign connected the dots between the hostility to Muslims, Arabs, and immigrants to the past discrimination against Chinese and Japanese Americans to help warn this country about the dangers demonizing marginalized groups presents to our democracy. The Stop Repeating History campaign is a project of the Minami Tamaki Yamauchi Kwok & Lee (MTYKL) Foundation.

Lisa Mak to Serve as 2021 Vice President/President-Elect of Asian American Bar Association

Lisa Mak to Serve as 2021 Vice President/President-Elect of Asian American Bar Association

Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Lisa P. Mak was elected Vice President/President-Elect 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. Lisa’s election was recently announced to the AABA membership. She will begin her term as President in 2022.

Lisa will be the first attorney from Minami Tamaki LLP to serve as President of AABA. She served as Treasurer this year after serving as Secretary in 2019.

Lisa continues Minami Tamaki’s tradition of leadership in bar associations. Partner Sean Tamura-Sato and Associate Claire Choo also serve on the AABA Board. Senior Counsel Dale Minami is a co-founder of AABA and of the Asian Pacific Bar of California. Partner Suhi Koizumi is a past president of the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California. Partner Minette Kwok served as a Commissioner on the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization Immigration and Nationality Law. Associate Seema Bhatt serves on the board of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California. Other firm attorneys have served in numerous positions with various bar associations and legal organizations.

A deep commitment to our communities and diversity issues guides Lisa’s service. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach and for the California Asian Pacific American Bar Association. She is actively involved in the California Employment Lawyers Association (“CELA”) and serves on the Board of CELA’s foundation. Lisa is also a past board member of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Lisa is an Associate in Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group. Her practice includes employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, contract claims, and labor code violations. She is experienced in litigation, from pre-litigation negotiations to trials and appeals. She also advises employees on employment contracts and severance agreements. She writes frequently about social justice and workplace equality issues, and her work has been published in Plaintiff Magazine and on the CELA Voice blog.

Lisa has served as trial counsel in multiple trials involving a wide variety of employment disputes in state and federal court. In 2016, she was co-lead counsel on a five-week jury trial which resulted in a $3.5 million total verdict for four female officers at the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. The verdict was listed in the LexisNexis “Top 10 Employment Verdicts” for 2016 and was recognized by Leaders in the Law in its “Northern California’s Leading Lawyers” 2017 publication.

She was selected as a Super Lawyers Rising Star from 2015-2020, an honor awarded to no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state. In 2017, Lisa was honored with the Legal Advocate Award from the Center for Workers’ Rights and with a civil rights award from the Equal Justice Society.

Lisa graduated from UC San Diego summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa and received her law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law.

Minami Tamaki LLP Lisa Mak AABA President 2022
Dale Minami, Don Tamaki Featured in New HBO Documentary ‘The Soul of America’

Dale Minami, Don Tamaki Featured in New HBO Documentary ‘The Soul of America’

“The Soul of America,” a new HBO documentary includes brief interviews with Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Donald Tamaki and Senior Counsel Dale Minami. The film examines our current fraught political reality by exploring historical challenges of the past.

The women’s suffrage movement, the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, McCarthyism, and the struggle to pass Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s were all instances in which “our better angels” battled against the forces of hatred and division that are recurring themes in American life.

Focusing on pivotal moments in our history that reflect America’s longstanding struggles with racism, sexism and xenophobia, the film demonstrates how we continue to confront animosity in American politics, economic anxiety, isolationist and nativist tendencies and conspiracy theories. Helping us to better understand the parallels between current events and their historical antecedents, “The Soul of America” ultimately gives hope that the lessons of the past may bring the nation closer to achieving its democratic ideals.

Don and Dale help lead the Stop Repeating History campaign, which has spent the past four years educating the public on the dangers of unchecked presidential power.

“The Soul of America” debuted on HBO and HBO Max this week and is available on demand. The documentary follows writer, journalist, historian and prolific presidential biographer Jon Meacham as he offers his timely and invaluable insights into the United States’ current political and historical moment by examining its past.

Based on Meacham’s 2018 bestseller, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels and produced by Kunhardt Films (Emmy® winner for HBO’s “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality”), the film also chronicles Meacham’s life and career as a journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian as he shares his insights into America’s past and present.

Part political documentary, part biography, the film interweaves archival material and interviews with Meacham along with insights from journalists, academics and civil rights activists.

In addition to brief remarks from Don and Dale, the film features insights from actor and activist George Takei; historian and author Lisa Tetrault; entrepreneur and nonprofit leader Keith Smythe Meacham; journalist and author Evan Thomas; civil rights activist Janice Wesley Kelsey; U.S. Representative and civil rights activist John Lewis, who passed away on July 17, 2020; and others.

Watch “The Soul of America” on HBO or on the HBO Max streaming service.

‘Time to Declare War Against Racism’

‘Time to Declare War Against Racism’

This piece from Bill Ong Hing was originally published on the ImmigrationProf Blog. Photo CC BY 2.0 Daniel Arauz.

Friends–Minneapolis is a wake up call.

The tragic police murder of George Floyd highlights the sad truth that racial profiling of African Americans and the country’s racial divide continue. The juxtaposition of this incident and the fits and starts the nation is going through in its battle against the coronavirus provides us with an opportunity to declare another war — a war on racism in America. With race on the front pages, the opportunity is ripe for national, state, and local leaders to declare war on bigotry and hate.

More than 150 years after the Civil War and 55 years since the Civil Rights Act and the end of the national origins immigration system, racism continues in the United States. From hate speech and hate crimes to employment discrimination and forms of social preference, subtle actions and institutionalized racism continue to challenge our nation. Almost 20 years ago when Trent Lott was sharply criticized for racist sentiment at Strom Thurmond’s retirement party, we saw Democrats and Republicans alike agree that racism is wholly and completely unacceptable. But after Lott stepped aside, addressing racism was pushed to the back burner again, allowed to eat away at our nation’s character. We now see Donald Trump getting away with calling neo-Nazis and white supremacists at Charlottesville “very fine people” while labeling Minneapolis protesters as “thugs.”

A dozen years ago, presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a stirring speech on our nation’s racial divide. Then a few years later he sat down to discuss profiling with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his arresting Boston police officer. But after that, we heard little further discussion nor witnessed much direct public action. Any talk of improving race relations remains hushed and polite when it occurs at all. Hushed until there’s another black victim of police brutality: Amadou Diallo. Sandra Bland. Manuel Loggins Jr. Ronald Madison. Kendra James. Sean Bell. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Mario Woods. Philando Castile. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Sam DuBose. Tamir Rice. Eric Harris. Akai Gurley. Terence Crutcher. William Chapman. Jeremy McDole. Alton Sterling. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Sadly, George Floyd was not the first black murder victim of Minneapolis police—just Google the name Jamar Clark.

The problem with polite talk on these issues is that it lets the vast majority of the nation off the hook. The nation ends up treating overt incidents as the exception, regarding those instances as rare—as they move on to the next day’s headline. What will it take to realize that we should be taking aim at what should be our prime target—the foundation of institutionalized racism that has created an environment that enables subtle and unconscious racism, emboldens perpetrators of racist speech, and licenses acts of hate.

We need more than polite talk. We need a sense of outrage and indignation. We need massive mobilization over the issue. We need a declaration of war. The declaration of war on the evils of hate and racism must be loud and constant. Just as we have poured millions of dollars into campaigns against COVID-19, against drugs and smoking, and into efforts to address recycling and other environmental concerns, we need attention-grabbing strategies to begin now, in the midst of current recognition that improving race relations matters.

We need a clear vision statement on these issues to serve as the basis for this moral declaration. We must be driven, not politely, because we are beyond politeness on the evils of hate and prejudice that our sensible leaders acknowledge are not American values. Let’s put our heads together on this national priority. Be creative and imaginative in approaches. Set an example. Call for new laws, enforcement of existing regulations, smart coalition-building, civility, respect and approaches to addressing private attitudes and actions. Make that call loud and clear and remind us over and over. Make it part of the national psyche, not just part of the national agenda. That call and that declaration of war against racism is happening right now on the streets of Minneapolis.

The public face of American pluralism — dominated by politicians, professionals and community leaders — has its positive moments in spite of Donald Trump. The problem is with the private off-camera face of America that fails to teach our children and challenge our neighbors to be respectful of others. We all share to varying degrees the blame for a culture that gives rise to hate speech and ethnic animosity. Every time we engage in even subtle racism or the fostering of stereotypes, we perpetuate that culture. As much as each of us shares the blame, each of us can be part of the solution. Every time we reach out to others whom we have been conditioned to distrust, fear, or subordinate because of culture, race or class, we begin to chip away at the wicked culture that gives rise to irrational hatred, animosity, and violence.

In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush spoke out against hate crimes directed at Americans of South Asian, Pakistani, Arab, and Muslim descent. He urged “Americans not to use this as an opportunity to pick on somebody that doesn’t look like you, or doesn’t share your religion.” But then, he and other leaders did little to demonstrate an informed understanding about the racialized structures of our society that continue to subordinate blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and many Asian Americans. President Obama called on Americans to do better, but his efforts have been derailed by the MAGA-wearing president. So we must take it upon ourselves to support and get on the war path against racism. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get serious about racism as a nation and as individuals.

Bill Hing

Ted Lieu: Trump is stoking xenophobic panic in a time of crisis

Ted Lieu: Trump is stoking xenophobic panic in a time of crisis

Congressman Ted Lieu of California’s 33rd Congressional District authored an op-ed published by The Washington Post on March 18, 2020.

Related: The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON) and Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) have launched the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center in response to spreading xenophobia as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have experienced harassment and/or discrimination, visit a3pcon.org/stopaapihate to file a confidential report.

I genuinely want President Trump to succeed in stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus, and will do everything I can to help him in this effort. At stake are the lives of my elderly parents, my family, my constituents and many Americans. But Trump’s repeated insistence on calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus” is more than just xenophobic; it causes harm both to Asian Americans and to the White House’s response to this life-threatening pandemic. I served on active duty in the U.S. military to defend the right of any American to make politically incorrect statements, but as a public figure, I cannot stand idly by while the president uses his pulpit to exacerbate xenophobia in a time of crisis.

Trump claims that in using the phrase “Chinese virus,” he’s just trying to be “accurate” in describing where it’s from. But there is a difference between saying the virus is from China and saying it is a Chinese virus. In a time of unease and uncertainty, such language stokes xenophobic panic and doesn’t get us closer to eradicating this virus. Asian Americans have been assaulted or otherwise discriminated against because of such rhetoric. In New York, a man assaulted an Asian woman wearing a face mask and called her a “diseased b—h.” Also in New York, a man on the subway sprayed an Asian passenger with Febreze and verbally abused him. On the subway in Los Angeles, a man ranted at an Asian American woman, claiming Chinese people are putrid and responsible for all diseases. (The woman happened to be Thai American.)

Trump’s rhetoric adds fuel to the growing fire of hatred being misdirected at Asian Americans. The fact that he is the president of the United States, who is responsible for the well-being of all Americans, only makes his rhetoric even more disturbing. The leaders of both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have warned that we should not use terms such as “Chinese virus.” The novel coronavirus already has an official name, SARS-CoV-2, and an unofficial name, covid-19. Injecting an ethnic qualifier to the virus is unnecessary and can stigmatize Asian Americans.

Against the backdrop of Trump’s unnecessary language lies the history of discrimination against Asian Americans in our country. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the internment camps of World War II to the murder of Vincent Chin, Asian Americans are particularly susceptible to being discriminated against by the mistaken belief that we somehow are foreigners or have foreign ties.

Read the full op-ed by Rep. Lieu.

Japan Foreign Minister’s Commendation Awarded to Donald K. Tamaki

Japan Foreign Minister’s Commendation Awarded to Donald K. Tamaki

The Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has awarded Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Donald K. Tamaki with a Japan Foreign Minister’s Commendation for 2019.

The Commendations are awarded to individuals and groups with outstanding achievements in international fields, in order to acknowledge their contributions to the promotion of friendship between Japan and other countries and areas.

The Commendations also aim to promote the understanding and support of the Japanese public for the activities of the recipients.

In announcing the Commendation to Don, the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Don “has been dedicated to preserving and promoting Japanese culture in San Francisco” and “also made a tremendous contribution to improving the status of Japanese Americans in the United States of America as a member of the pro bono team that reopened and overturned Fred Korematsu’s criminal conviction in the landmark Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States.”

Don will receive the Commendation in late November at the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco.

Don Tamaki Leads Tour of ‘Then They Came for Us’ Exhibit

Don Tamaki Leads Tour of ‘Then They Came for Us’ Exhibit

Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Don Tamaki led a special guided tour (photos) on May 25, 2019, of the “Then they Came For Me” exhibit at The Presidio in San Francisco, organized by the Civil Rights Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA). Don is one of the leaders of the Stop Repeating History campaign.

Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties” examines the terrifying period in U.S. history when the government scapegoated and imprisoned thousands of people of Japanese ancestry.

This multimedia exhibition draws parallels to tactics chillingly resurgent today featuring imagery by noted American photographers Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, alongside works by incarcerated Japanese American artists Toyo Miyatake and Miné Okubo.

Presented by the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation in partnership with the National Japanese American Historical Society and J-Sei, the exhibition tells the story of the forced removal of 120,000 Japanese American citizens and legal residents from their homes on the West Coast during World War II without due process or other constitutional protections to which they were entitled.

Visit https://thentheycame.org to learn more about the exhibit, which runs through September 1, 2019.

Thank you to Lisa P. Mak for sharing this information.

Let’s Break Down the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype

Let’s Break Down the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype

This post by Partner Olivia Serene Lee was originally published on thinkimmigration.org, a website of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, as part of the site’s Diversity and Inclusion Blog Post Series.

May marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. You are forgiven if you’re not quite sure whose month exactly this is! Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) is a rather broad term and encompasses more than 50 ethnic groups from Asia and the Pacific Islands who live in the United States.

While the AAPI communities have roots that span the globe, our success stories are uniquely American.  May is a significant month in Asian American history, as it includes the first entry of an immigrant from Japan to the U.S. (May 7, 1843), the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad (May 10, 1869) in which the majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants, as well as a dark time in our nation’s history with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act (May 6, 1882).

In fact, Asian American history dates back to the 16th century with the first recorded presence of Filipinos in what is now the U.S. to October 1587 around Morro Bay, California, with the first permanent settlement in Saint Malo, Louisiana, in 1763.  Less than fifteen years later, in 1778, Chinese immigrants settled in Hawaii.  From ancient, to more recent, the impact of Asian Americans on U.S. history is undeniable.

But, despite our long history in the U.S., there is still a stereotype that we are the “perpetual foreigner”, with many of us being asked the dreaded question “Where are you from?”, which is then normally followed by the question “No, where are you really from?”, or the variant “Where are your parents from?”

“Where are you really from?” is a tough question to answer, even for me. Until only a few years ago, I thought my family had just immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s.  However, through interviews with people from the Chinese American community, including AILA member Helen Hui, I learned that my family had a much more significant and lengthier history in the U.S.

In fact, I have a paternal great-great-grandfather who lived and settled in Chicago.  His son, my great-grandfather, lived in Chicago for some time before moving to San Francisco.  On my maternal side, my great-grandmother came to the U.S. as an aide to her daughters, who were acclaimed Cantonese opera singers and recruited to perform in San Francisco Chinatown theaters.  One of these singers had a life partner who was the first Chinese woman attorney in California – Emma Lum.  Her father, Walter U. Lum, was a renowned civil rights advocate and has a street named after him in San Francisco Chinatown.

Walter U. Lum was one of the founders of the Native Sons of the Golden State (renamed the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in 1915) which advocated for Chinese American rights and opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was finally overturned in 1943 with the Magnuson Act.  However, while the Magnuson Act overturned the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1924 only allowed a national quota of 105 Chinese immigrants per year. This extremely small quota impacted families, as it was difficult for American citizen men to bring their Chinese citizen wives and children to the U.S. This was, in fact, the case with my family, where several generations of husbands and sons were separated from their wives and children.

Walter U. Lum and the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA) continued advocating to change the U.S. quota system so that Chinese families could be together.  In fact, many of our clients today benefit from the legacy of Walter U. Lum’s work, especially with our current definition of immediate relatives.

In 1936, the CACA successfully campaigned for a partial alleviation of the inhumane separation of American citizens from their wives. Through continued advocacy work, including repeatedly appearing before Congressional immigration committees, CACA succeeded in getting Congress to pass a law granting non-quota status to Chinese wives of American citizens on August 9, 1946.

The pen which President Harry S. Truman used to sign this law is housed at the CACA lodge in San Francisco, and this pen has been shown at events with the local AILA Northern California Chapter at the CACA lodge.  The passage of the 1946 act served as a basis for the definition of immediate relatives, and the CACA members on October 15, 1952 appeared before President Harry Truman’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization to continue advocating.  Finally, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 gave us our current definition of “immediate relatives” and also abolished the national-origins quota, which limited Chinese immigration to only 105 per year.

When I look back at my Chinese American heritage, I am grateful to the Chinese American community members (including above-mentioned AILA member Helen Hui) for giving me more context to the history of my family in the U.S., for continually advocating for immigrant rights, and for teaching me our significant and long history in the U.S.  I am also grateful and proud that my own family played a part in  overturning the Chinese Exclusion Act and contributing to the concept of immediate relatives.

While the Chinese Exclusion Act no longer keeps families apart, as we know, these days there are other policies in place that do. The Muslim ban, the Remain in Mexico policy, even delays in processing at USCIS are keeping families apart and benefit no one; there have also been legislative changes proposed that would prevent families from reunifying. We’ve been down that road before and it harmed generations of children, in my case resulting in ignorance about my family’s history until very recently.  We must use the lessons of the past to halt current policies that exclude and separate immigrant families.

With confidence, I can say that my family has been here at least five generations, but due to the racist and anti-Chinese sentiments which gave rise to the Chinese Exclusion Act and national origins quota, my family was separated for generations between two continents. I don’t feel like a perpetual foreigner anymore. Now, if only people would stop asking me that question…