Blog : Minami Tamaki Newsletter Summer 2010

Foot-wide Pothole Injures Cyclist, Possibly Ending Drumming Career

Senior Associate Seth Rosenberg obtained a $145,000 settlement from the City of Berkeley and Comcast late last year for client V. Carrillo (not the client’s real name), who suffered a severely broken hand (requiring surgery) in 2006 from a bicycle incident in Berkeley, Calif.

Carrillo, then a student at the University of California, Berkeley, was riding his bicycle with his girlfriend at night when he rode into an unseen, deep pothole filled with water on University Avenue. Upon riding into the pothole, he was ejected. His left arm and hand felt numb, and he could not move his fingers. Carrillo removed the gloves he had on and noticed that his left pinky finger was bent abnormally to the side and the knuckle of his ring finger was severely indented.

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Negotiating Severance Packages: Parachute or Free Fall?

brad_yamauchiBy Brad Yamauchi, Partner

You probably have read about “golden parachute” severance packages that pay millions of dollars to corporate executives, even when they are fired for poor performance or a scandal. Why is that? Can you get a severance package if you voluntarily or involuntarily leave your job?

I have negotiated severance packages for hundreds of clients in my 33-plus years of representing all types of employees, from hourly or low income workers to high income executives. This is a complex area of practice that requires a broad range of knowledge and negotiation skills.

To be effective, I must be familiar with all possible legal claims and damages, evaluate stock options and other types of compensation schemes, understand the economic situations of the company and the client, understand client goals, determine the motives of corporate management, HR and their attorneys, and have enough experience to know industry standards and expectations, among other considerations.

No two negotiations are the same. I need to be creative and assertive in giving the company a reason to offer my client a significant severance package that may include continuing pay and health benefits, a lump sum of cash, stock or stock options, retirement contributions, good references, purging negative records and/or work as an independent contractor. If a severance agreement is worked out, it requires that my client waive any and all legal claims (except workers compensation). Confidentiality and an agreement not to apply for jobs at that employer are also common terms in a severance agreement.

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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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Olivia Serene Lee the New Co-Chair of Asian American Bar Employment Committee

Olivia Serene Lee, Minami Tamaki LLPOlivia Serene Lee, an associate in Minami Tamaki’s Immigration Practice Group, recently became the Co-Chair of the Employment Committee of the Asian American Bar Association (AABA). The committee organized the 23rd annual AABA Summer Law Clerk Reception at Yank Sing Restaurant on June 23, 2010.

Olivia delivered the opening remarks at the event to more than 150 attorneys, students and judges. More than 60 law firm partners personally contributed to this year’s event; and as a result of the overwhelming support of the partner community, AABA was able to cover the costs of the reception and allocate additional funding to AABA’s summer grant recipients.

For more information on the event, see

Minami Tamaki Helps Dentist Who Lost Business Due to Injuries from Head-on Collision

Partner Dale Minami recently settled a case for client M. Jay (not the person’s real name), a 60-year-old, self-employed dentist who suffered injuries when his car was hit by an oncoming car in Sept. 2008 in Oakland.

Dr. Jay’s injuries were so severe that he was forced to take months off from his private practice, and in the process, losing many of his patients who had to find other dentists. The $510,000 settlement that Minami was able to obtain for Dr. Jay will help cover past and future loss of income and medical costs. The amount was the maximum recovery under Dr. Jay’s insurance policy with the California State Automobile Association (CSAA).

The collision occurred when a car driven by Ms. Karl entered the same intersection as Dr. Jay going in the opposite direction, and Ms. Karl suddenly made a left turn into the intersection, colliding with Dr. Jay’s car, totalling the vehicle. Ms. Karl had only $25,000 of coverage, which was recovered before the remaining $475,000 was paid by Dr. Jay’s own insurance company.  IN addition, Minami obtained a waiver from CSAA of $10,000 in medical expenses which they could have claimed as an offset to the $500,000.

Ms. Karl claimed that she did not see Dr. Jay’s vehicle or any oncoming traffic. An independent witness verified Dr. Jay’s version of the collision, as did the investigating officer, who found Ms. Karl at fault.

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Minami Tamaki Partners are ‘Super Lawyers’ for 7th Straight Year

From left: Jack W. Lee; Minette Kwok, Dale Minami, Donald K. Tamaki, Lynda Won-Chung and Brad Yamauchi. Not pictured: Mark Fong and Derek G. Howard.

Each of the five partners at Minami Tamaki LLP has been named by Northern California Super Lawyers magazine as among the top attorneys for 2010 for the seventh straight year. All three of the senior counsel in the firm have also been named to the Super Lawyers distinction in 2010.

Only five percent of the lawyers in California are named by Super Lawyers. And few firms (if any) have the distinction of having all the partners of a firm named by Super Lawyers magazine for seven years in a row.

Partners Dale Minami (Personal Injury), Donald K. Tamaki (Corporate), Brad Yamauchi (Employment), Minette A. Kwok (Immigration), Jack W. Lee (Employment), and Senior Counsel Lynda Won-Chung (Immigration), Mark Fong (Personal Injury) and Derek G. Howard (Consumer Law) were selected based on voting conducted by ballots sent to more than 56,000 lawyers in the region, an extensive process involving peer nomination and a blue ribbon panel comprised of lawyers from appropriate practice areas who scrutinized the list of nominees.

Minami was also selected as one of the Top 100 Northern California Super Lawyers for the fifth year (2005, 2007-2010).

Northern California Super Lawyers is published annually in August in a special advertising section in San Francisco Magazine, which reaches more than 400,000 monthly readers. Northern California Super Lawyers magazine, featuring articles about the local legal community, is delivered to more than 64,000 readers, including Northern California lawyers, the lead corporate counsel of the Russell 3000 companies and the ABA-approved law school libraries.

The selections for Super Lawyers are made by Law & Politics, a division of Key Professional Media, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minn. Each year, Law & Politics undertakes a rigorous multi-phase selection process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, independent evaluation of candidates by the Law & Politics’ attorney-led research staff, a peer review of candidates by practice area, and a good-standing and disciplinary check.

Univ. of San Francisco Bestows Honorary Degree on Dale Minami

On May 22, the University of San Francisco School of of Law bestowed an honorary degree upon Dale Minami, a partner at Minami Tamaki LLP.

Minami has tried numerous civil rights cases involving Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities on a pro bono basis, including Korematsu v. United States. Working with three USF law graduates and other experts, Minami served as lead counsel in this case that overturned Fred Korematsu’s 40-year-old conviction for his refusal to obey exclusion orders that sent Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II.

Minami said that the willingness of his Korematsu team to change course “brought us to this monumental case.”

“Life rarely unfolds in a straight-forward manner and as you change your dreams will change too in ways you never planned for,” Minami said. “The ability to deviate from a linear path will help you live those dreams. Each of us never quite knew where we were going when we started our law careers.”

Law school dean Jeffery Brand said that if Minami and his colleagues are powerful examples of what the law can do, the Class of 2010 is a reminder that a new generation of courageous, ethical lawyers are ready to take up the fight.

“Our honorees have demonstrated the simple truth that ordinary souls are capable of doing extraordinary things, and that an injustice, no matter how long it may fester, is worth fighting,” Brand said. “Our graduates have demonstrated the energy, passion, and drive to follow precisely the same path.”

Source: University of San Francisco, Office of Communications

CNN Story on Alleged ATF Retaliation Against Officer

CNN aired a report May 26 on Vince Cefalu, a special agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who says he experienced retaliation by the agency after he filed several grievances and an age-discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Minami Tamaki partner Brad Yamauchi is Mr. Cefalu’s attorney.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Edward Davila Nominated to Northern District Federal Court

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Edward Davila Nominated to Northern District Federal Court

jack_lee_captionU.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) yesterday praised President Obama’s nomination of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Edward Davila for a federal judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Senator Boxer recommended Davila’s nomination to the White House after a thorough interview and vetting process by her bipartisan advisory committee, which is chaired by Minami Tamaki LLP partner Jack W. Lee.

Senator Boxer said, “I am so pleased the President has nominated Judge Edward Davila for a federal judgeship in the Northern District of California. Judge Davila’s extensive legal career and his deep community involvement will make him an asset to the federal bench. When confirmed, he will be the only Latino judge serving in the Northern District.”

Since 2001, Judge Davila has served on the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where he oversees cases in the criminal, civil, family and juvenile justice divisions. Previously, he was a partner at Davila & Polverino and served as a deputy public defender in Santa Clara County. Judge Davila was a two-time president of the La Raza Lawyers Association Santa Clara County, and he served as President of the Santa Clara County Bar Association in 1998. Judge Davila received the 2006 Justice Baryl Salsman Award from the Santa Clara County Bar Association for his contributions to the legal community.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the San Diego State University and earned his law degree from the University of California Hastings College of Law.

The Northern District of California stretches from the Monterey Coast in the south to California’s northern border with Oregon and from the Pacific Ocean in the west nearly to Sacramento County in the east. More than 7.3 million people live in the district, which includes San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.