Blog : Minami Tamaki Newsletter Spring 2010

Reflections on a Mentor

Seth RosenbergMinami Tamaki LLP Senior Associate Seth Rosenberg wrote this piece for The Recorder, which published it in mid-July as part of their “Mentors 2010” series.

Mix in Jerry Spence, Yogi Berra, a Zen Master of your choosing, and a healthy dose of ’60s-style rebellion and you have my mentor and friend, Berne Reuben.

Berne and I began working together in 2004. At that time, Berne had just left his solo practice of 100 years and I had just become a plaintiffs’ personal injury attorney three years out of law school. He had little experience working closely with young attorneys and I was a little-too-cocky young attorney (many would say a “lot-too-cocky”). Things did not look good … and they were not good in the beginning. There were squabbles. We did not see eye-to-eye.

But two things changed everything. First, I consumed significant helpings of humble pie. And, second, I quickly realized that Berne Reuben was one hell of a trial lawyer. I then decided that I just needed to become a sponge and soak up everything Berne had to say. And Berne can talk. Indeed, one of his favorite sayings (and now mine is that the best part of the law is “T&T” (“thinking and talking”). We spent hours T&T’ing over cases we were working on together and separately. And, like any great mentor, he was always available to talk (except on his day off — Friday, or mornings, or days after he played music at night with his friends, or… ) In these T&T sessions, Berne taught me wonderful “Yogi Berra-esque” sayings that I recite all the time:

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Court Approves Class Action Status for LCD Price Fixing Lawsuit

Jack Lee and Brad YamauchiIn late March, U.S. District Judge Susan Y. Illston in San Francisco certified a price fixing class action lawsuit filed by Minami Tamaki LLP as a class action on behalf of customers of liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) or products containing them.

Partners Jack Lee (left photo) and Brad Yamauchi (right photo) filed the lawsuit in 2007 against Samsung Electronics, LG Philips, Sharp, Toshiba, Hitachi, and others, alleging violation of antitrust and unfair competition laws, on behalf of all owners of LCD displays who were overcharged due to a price fixing scheme.

The firm is seeking money damages from the defendants, including restitution of all profits illegally obtained from overcharging the public. Price fixing occurs when vendors cooperate to set prices for their products at artificially high levels.

The firm has been deeply involved in trial preparation for the case in anticipation of a likely trial date in 2011.

YouTube Celebrity Ryan Higa Picks Minami Tamaki as Counsel

don_tamakiPartner Donald Tamaki recently signed on as a client Ryan Higa, the YouTube celebrity whose channel made YouTube history as the first to reach two million subscribers.

Ryan and Sean Fujiyoshi started posting YouTube videos of themselves lip synching to songs in mid-2006 while attending Waiakea High School in Hilo, Hawaii. They quickly expanded beyond songs, with a variety of other comedic pieces.

By November 2008, Ryan’s videos had been viewed more than 150 million times.

In 2008, Los Angeles producer Derek Zemrak offered to help them create their first feature-length film. The resulting film, Ryan and Sean’s Not So Excellent Adventure, was directed by Richard Van Vleet and released on November 14, 2008. It was shown in sold out theaters in Hawaii and California The DVD was released on July 14, 2009 in the USA.

Ryan and Sean’s Not So Excellent Adventure is about a down on his luck movie producer, played by Michael Buckley, who is seeking out famous celebrities in order to make a hit movie in 30 days or risk being fired. He chooses Ryan Higa and Sean Fujiyoshi after discovering the popularity of their YouTube videos. He invites them to Hollywood to make a movie. They accept the offer, and run into some amusing situations on the way.

Here’s one of Ryan’s latest videos:


Minami Tamaki Immigration Practice Group Helps Navigate Immigration Visa Maze, Ease Stress

ipgThe U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on April 8 announced that it was continuing to accept H-1B nonimmigrant petitions subject to the cap for this Federal fiscal year (2011).

USCIS received approximately 13,500 H-1B petitions counting towards the 65,000 cap. The agency has received approximately 5,600 petitions for individuals with advanced degrees.

U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in fields, such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers.

Two and three years ago, in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, the USCIS H-1B caps were reached on the very first day that petitions were eligible to be accepted, said Minette Kwok (left top photo), Minami Tamaki’s partner leading the firm’s immigration practice group.

“The poor economy is clearly causing the low number of H-1B petitions,” said Kwok. “In previous years, the petition process was stressful for foreign nationals because they didn’t know whether there were other options for them to work and stay in the U.S. It ended up being a lottery system.”

To ensure a fair system, USCIS said that it might randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit from the petitions received on the final receipt date, when the number of petitions is nearing the cap limitations. USCIS will reject cap subject petitions that are not selected, as well as those received after the final receipt date.

“We can’t control the numbers but at least we can do our best to get petitions submitted quickly and communicate with employees quickly on news,” senior counsel Lynda Won-Chung (left middle photo) pointed out. “The uncertainty of one’s future is dependent on the visa process can be nerve-wrecking. We recall one employee’s response when we advised him the H-1B petition on his behalf was selected: ‘Wow, thank you for the wonderful news! That was such a relief! It’s celebration time for me. Thanks again for your enormous efforts.’ ”

The Immigration Practice Group of Minami Tamaki offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services. Partner Minette Kwok, senior counsel Lynda Won-Chung and associate Olivia Serene Lee (left bottom photo) routinely assist employers and employees, nationwide, in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. And just as often, they help individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships.

Immigration matters are very personal to clients and Kwok, Won-Chung and Lee take pride in providing a level of service that enables their clients to concentrate on their jobs or other matters, allowing Minami Tamaki immigration attorneys to best assist them in achieving their immigration goals.

Minami Tamaki Assists Small Business Owner Injured by Hazardous Sidewalk Panels

Seth RosenbergAssociate Seth Rosenberg obtained a $400,000 settlement for client Kenneth T. for hip injuries suffered after he tripped and fell over elevated sidewalk panels on a street in San Francisco.

Kenneth, then 81, and a small business owner, suffered his injuries in January 2008 from tripping over panels that were pushed up as much as one inch above the sidewalk due to tree roots that were planted in the area. Approximately 26 panels were pushed up in a similar way because of those tree roots and other pedestrians had fallen at the same spot.

Because of injuries suffered from the sidewalk panels, Kenneth needs assistance with activities for daily living and employs home health aides for eight hours per day. He will need this home assistance for the remainder of his life.

Kenneth can no longer work at the home improvements company he owned and the settlement Rosenberg obtained for him will help cover medical costs and lost earnings.

Man Suffering Permanent Injuries from Two-Story Fall Holds Irresponsible Landlord Accountable

dale_minamiA man who leaned on a defective railing that crumbled and fell two stories in his apartment building recovered $1,066,690 through the efforts of Partner Dale Minami. The fall caused Roger D. permanent knee injuries, including a fracture in the leg, torn ligaments and chronic post-traumatic arthritis according to his doctors.

Roger, then 58, had returned home from work with his son and walked to the second floor deck to call out to his neighbor to move his car so his son could park in the driveway. As he leaned slightly on railing, the entire railing collapsed and Roger pitched forward, falling straight down from approximately two stories to the concrete pavement. His head struck a wooden fence, which caused his body and legs to flip over, severely contorting his legs and falling on his back legs.

Roger now experiences permanent weakness in his leg and knee and can no longer work at his occupation as a warehouseman. Before the accident, Roger was independent and active and while he is still able to care for himself, cannot engage in the physical activities he enjoyed.

Minami was able to prove that the that the landlord demonstrated a pattern of neglect and failure to conduct routine maintenance, resulting in building and permit code violations, ignoring construction standards and disregard of the tenants’ well-being.

By painting the picture of an uncaring and careless landlord, Roger was able to obtain the insurance policy limits of the landlord’s policy and an additional amount to be paid from the landlord’s personal assets. This settlement will cover Roger’s lifetime loss of wages, past and future medical costs, and his loss of enjoyment of life.

Former Law Enforcement Officer Faces Brighter Future After Minami Tamaki Helps Obtain Compensation for Medical Malpractice

Former Law Enforcement Officer Faces Brighter Future After Minami Tamaki Helps Obtain Compensation for Medical Malpractice

Mark FongSenior counsel Mark Fong (left photo) and associate Seth Rosenberg (left bottom photo) obtained a $490,000 settlement on behalf of Frank S., a former law enforcement and security officer who suffered a stroke due to medical malpractice at the Colton, Calif., Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, which is run by the County of San Bernardino.

On January 31, 2007, Frank, then 35 years old, went to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center complaining of abdominal pain. He was admitted to the intensive care unit after being diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that occurs when ketones build up in the blood faster than the body can expel them through urine.

A series of medical mishaps caused by the hospital staff involving improperly placed IVs catheters and wrongly administered injections, after which Frank suffered a stroke.

Seth RosenbergFranks’s left side is permanently damaged. He has reduced strength and sensation on his left side and little to no left-side stamina. Following his injury, Frank was on disability and will never be able to engage in employment that requires standing, walking or balancing.

These permanent injuries are even more limiting, as Frank was a long-time law enforcement and security professional, having served as a police officer and security officer. Prior to the accident, Frank had recently ended employment as a security officer and was interviewing for a job with the Riverside Community College Police Department.

As a result of his injuries, Frank may be able to hold a desk job, but is unable to use his left arm and hand for an extended period of time. He says that his settlement will help him to purchase a home, which will help provide financial security.

The settlement obtained by Fong and Rosenberg for Frank covered lost wages and pain and suffering. Because of laws protecting doctors and hospitals from malpractice suits in California, damages for pain and suffering in this case were capped at $250,000.

Employee News and Updates

Partner Brad Yamauchi was recently elected to the executive committee of the Labor and Employment Law Section of The Bar Association of San Francisco. The Section provides a forum for neutrals and management, labor and employee attorneys to meet and discuss current developments affecting their practices, offers continuing legal education programs, and sponsors an annual conference in Yosemite National Park to discuss, in-depth, issues and developments. At the most recent Yosemite conference, Brad served on a panel discussing the ramification of the Supreme Court decision in the Pyett case, in which the Court ruled that an arbitration clause in a collective bargaining agreement waiving employees’ right to file statutory discrimination claims was enforceable.

Partner Donald Tamaki was a panelist at the California Primary Care Association’s 2010 Health Information and Technology Summit, held in Napa, Calif., in February. Don’s panel focused on helping community clinics and health centers prepare for negotiations with software vendors by understanding the realities of the implementation process and indentifying areas of risk. The California Primary Care Association (CPCA) formed in 1994 to represent and unify the statewide voice of California’s community clinics and health centers and their patients. CPCA represents more than 800 not-for-profit community clinics and health centers that provide comprehensive, quality health care services, particularly for low-income, uninsured and underserved Californians, who might otherwise not have access to health care. Don’s expertise also garnered him a new client, Clinica Sierra Vista, one of the largest, private, non-profit, community based and governed agencies in California, operating eight community clinics in Kern, Fresno and other Central Valley counties.

Partner Dale Minami keynoted two events in February commemorating the annual Day of Remembrance, one in Los Angeles, Calif., and another in Denver, Colorado. You can read about Dale’s L.A. presentation here. He was also invited by the Mile-Hi Chapter of the JACL and the University of Denver Law School to deliver the keynote address at their Day Of Remembrance, which marks the date on which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 ultimately authorizing the incarceration of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry without notice of charges, the right to counsel or the right to trials during World War II. Dale talked about the lessons to be learned from internment — and the need to create a lasting victory of continual activism and education by telling the stories of the hardships and loss of civil rights in new ways. He also stressed the importance of presenting the horror of the imprisonment through fresh eyes and new voices by linking our stories with those of other groups.

Associate Bethany Caracuzzo was inducted into the Rotary Club of Oakland on April 15. The Club was established in 1909, and is the third oldest Rotary club in the world. Oakland Rotary is part of Rotary International, one of 32,000 clubs worldwide, with over 1.2 million members. The Rotary Club of Oakland is a diverse service club of over 340 professionals, businesspersons, and other community leaders dedicated to fighting hunger and disease, and promoting health, education and other humanitarian causes in Oakland and around the world.

Associate Olivia Serene Lee participated on a panel of immigration attorneys held February 9 at Santa Clara University Law School. The panel was geared towards providing information to law students interested in pursuing careers in immigration law. Olivia and the other panelists reflected on their daily work lives, examples of the types of matters they each work on and shared suggestions on what students can do to become marketable in immigration law after they graduate.

Associate Lisa Charbonneau participated on a panel about careers in social justice held April 5 at the University of California Hastings College of Law, sponsored by the school’s Career Services office. The event attracted more than 60 attendees.

Associate Sean Tamura-Sato participated on a February 26 panel at Hastings on “Transitioning from Law Student to Lawyer” that shared advice with students on how to successfully transition from law school to becoming a practicing attorney. Panelists shared their perspectives on experiences in the first year out of law school, reflections on how to best prepare for the first year as an associate and the impact of the economic downturn on careers.