Blog : Minami Tamaki Newsletter Dec 2011

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.

Student Run Over in Crosswalk Recovers $585,000

Hanna P. (fictitious name), a 22-year old mathematics student at the University of California, Berkeley, was walking home from campus when she was struck by a sedan in 2007 on a busy Berkeley intersection. She was slammed to the ground, striking her face. She fractured four teeth and needed implants and bone grafts.

Partner Dale Minami, Senior Counsel Mark Fong and Associate Eunice W. Yang obtained the $25,000 policy limits of the driver of the sedan, and in addition, obtained a $540,000 settlement for Hanna at mediation against her own insurance company under an Underinsured Motorist Claim. In addition, the team claimed reimbursement of $20,000 medical payments. In total, the team recovered $585,000 for Hanna.

The bone graft, insertion of implants, and placing of crowns required almost 18 months of painful procedures and her consultants felt she would require two or three more such procedures in her lifetime. In addition to the fractured teeth, Hanna suffered a fractured nose and continual headaches, which were diagnosed by the prosthodontist to whom we referred Hanna. Fortunately, the prosthodontist discovered the problem and was able to create a splint for Jenny that helped reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.

Hanna’s insurance company disputed this claim and felt she would not require another implant, offering $340,000 to settle the case. Our team was able to convince the insurance company that she would be a chronic dental patient, suffer headaches for the rest of her life and compromise the delicate anatomy and physiology of her teeth and mouth. The settlement will compensate Hanna for her past pain and suffering and medical bills and will pay for Hanna’s future dental needs and the pain and inconvenience of her future procedures.

Minami Tamaki Recovers $2.1 Million for Medical Malpractice

Fred F. (fictitious name), a 51-year-old home care provider, was driving in the course and scope of his employment as a caregiver in San Francisco. Fred was struck by a Hummer rented from the Hertz Corporation and driven by a foreign tourist making an illegal turn on a red light. He was taken by ambulance to the emergency room of the local hospital, where Fred’s treating physicians inadvertently injured his spinal cord rendering him a partial quadriplegic.

Senior Counsel Mark Fong, Partner Dale Minami and Associate Eunice Yang handled the auto accident claim, which settled for Hertz’s policy limits of $1 million, and later settled the claim against the physicians and the hospital for $2.1 million.

Fred faced a number of challenges in settling the medical malpractice case. First, non-economic damages were capped at $250,000 due to the California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975. His past and future wage loss claim was $252,157.

The defendants argued that Fred’s claim for future medical expenses was unrecoverable as a matter of law, as the compensation carrier had agreed to provide him with lifetime medical care.  Through experts in healthcare financial administration, life care planning and workers compensation utilization review, our team argued that workers compensation is unlikely to pay for much of the treatment he will need over the next 30 years, leaving him exposed at the time when he will most need care.

The team settled the medical malpractice case for $2.1 million, recovering all of Fred’s wages and the terms of the settlement provides Fred with the lifetime care that he needs.

Homeowner Pays $300,000 in Dog Bite Case

Sumiko S. (fictitious name), a 32-year old, was visiting an acquaintance in San Ramon, when she was viciously attacked by the homeowner’s pit bull/Welsh corgi mix in 2009. While she was petting the dog, it suddenly jumped up and bite Sumiko’s face and upper lip, causing serious injuries to about a third of her lip.

Partner Dale Minami handled the case for this client and was able to arrange for a renowned plastic surgeon to repair Sumiko’s lip as it was so severely mangled that she needed four stages of reconstructive plastic surgery. The first surgery was needed to repair her upper lip by removing the damaged tissue from Sumiko’s face and lip. The subsequent three stages of surgery included a procedure to rejuvenate the skin on the lip, then reconstruct the delicate features of her mouth.

Sumiko also suffered emotional distress including nightmares and flashbacks rising from the attack and was despondent over facial disfigurement.

The case settled for $300,000, the homeowner’s policy limits, which provides Sumiko with the option of pursuing further reconstructive surgery in the future and psychological care as needed.

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2011

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2011

By Olivia Lee and Sean Tamura-Sato

Minami Tamaki attorneys recently attended the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Convention, held in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 17-20, 2011. Partners Dale Minami and Brad Yamauchi, and Associates Olivia Lee, Sean Tamura-Sato, and Eunice Yang joined over 1,200 other Asian American and Pacific Islander lawyers, judges, legal scholars, and law students at the Omni Hotel at the CNN Center.

Minami Tamaki LLP Associates Olivia Lee (far left), Eunice Yang (third from left) and Sean Tamura-Sato (far right), with Attorney General of Hawaii David Louie (middle).

This year’s Convention theme of “Sustainability” focused on planting the seeds of renewal and growth for AAPIs, and celebrated the achievements of AAPIs in the legal community. Minami Tamaki attorneys reconnected with old friends and made new ones during the four day event filled with CLE panels, receptions, committee meetings, plenary sessions, and after-hours events. Among the dozens of inspiring and dynamic panels were sessions on the impact of 9/11 on the AAPI community ten years later, the introduction of state immigration laws patterned after Arizona Senate Bill 1070, AAPI representation in the judiciary, and an examination of race, color, and citizenship through reenactments of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in the cases of Ozawa and Thind. Members of the Ozawa family also attended these reenactments.

Minami Tamaki Partner Dale Minami (third from right) with Attorney General of Hawaii David Louie (far left), Hawai’i Supreme Court Associate Justice Sabrina S. McKenna (third from left), California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu (fourth from left) and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (fifth from right).

The Minami Tamaki delegation attended several Solo & Small Firm Committee events, including a Committee dinner and planning meeting. Minami Tamaki is committed to increasing solo and small firm membership and benefits within NAPABA, and to providing a support and referral network for Committee members. Future plans include educational programs focusing on solo/small firm practice, and increased dialogue regarding the interests of consumers, employees, and accident victims.

Associates Olivia Lee, Sean Tamura-Sato, and Eunice Yang also attended several Young Lawyer / First Time Attendee events at the Convention, allowing them to build bonds with the next generation of NAPABA trailblazers. It was truly rewarding to meet so many impressive young attorneys from around the country.

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Denny Chin was the keynote speaker at the Anniversary Gala and Celebration Dinner on November 19. Judge Chin entertained the crowd with stories from numerous cases he presided over during 15 years on the U.S. District Court (S.D. N.Y.) bench, including the trial and sentencing of financier Bernard Madoff.

The annual NAPABA Judges Panel featured three AAPI Supreme Court Justices: Justice Ming Chin (California Supreme Court); Justice FernandeDuffly (Massachusetts Supreme Court); and Justice Sabrina McKenna (Hawai’i Supreme Court). California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu also offered special remarks to the capacity crowd regarding his journey to the State high court. The esteemed panelists shared stories from their diverse experiences and dispensed vital tips for oral advocates (“Answer the question asked!”).

Minami Tamaki Partner Dale Minami (right) with, from left, Attorney General of Hawaii David Louie, California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono.

The Convention also included Plenary Session remarks by Yale Law Professor and best-selling author Amy Chua. Professor Chua’s entertaining and engaging speech ranged from recounting the media firestorm around her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” to providing advice to young AAPI lawyers and law students on how to succeed in legal practice.

The 2011 Convention reinforced Minami Tamaki’s commitment to NAPABA, and our goal of mentoring and supporting members engaged in civil rights, social justice, and small firm practice. We look forward to participating in the 2012 NAPABA Conference in Washington, D.C.