Blog : Personal Injury

Audio Play ‘For Us All’ by Jeanne Sakata Features Portrayals of Dale Minami, Don Tamaki

Audio Play ‘For Us All’ by Jeanne Sakata Features Portrayals of Dale Minami, Don Tamaki

L.A. Theatre Works has released a new audio play by Jeanne Sakata titled “For Us All” based on the true story of the Korematsu v. United States coram nobis effort led by a team of young—mostly Asian American—attorneys that included Dale Minami and Donald K. Tamaki.

Purchase the audio play for $20.00 from L.A. Theatre Works. Purchase includes a virtual interview with playwright Jeanne Sakata in conversation with members of the Korematsu legal team: Lori Bannai, Peter Irons, Dale, and Don. Please note that the delivery of the audio file after your purchase may take up to 72 hours.

Directed by Anna Lyse Erikson
Producing Director: Susan Albert Loewenberg
Edward Asner as John J. McCloy
Brooke Ishibashi as Karen Korematsu, Clerk
Tess Lina as Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, Times Analyst, Clerk
Mike McShane as Lt. General John L. DeWitt, CBS News Anchor, ABC News Anchor, NBC Reporter
Derek Mio as Dale Minami
Joy Osmanski as Lorraine (Lori) Bannai, Maya
Jeanne Sakata as Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
André Sogliuzzo as Edward Ennis, Victor Stone, NY Times Reporter
Josh Stamberg as Peter Irons
Greg Watanabe as Fred Korematsu, Eric Yamamoto
Paul Yen as Don Tamaki
Producer: Anna Lyse Erikson
Recording Engineer and Sound Designer: Neil Wogensen
Senior Radio Producer: Ronn Lipkin
Foley Artist: Jeff Gardner

Learn more in a great blog post by Lia Chang.

Synopsis: A team of lawyers use a little known legal writ to fight to overturn the conviction of Fred Korematsu, unjustly sentenced for resisting the WWII mass incarceration of all Japanese Americans on the West Coast. While the government uses every tactic to make the case go away, the lawyers and their defendant insist on nothing short of justice.

The play draws much inspiration from Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and his Quest for Justice by Lorraine K. Bannai (University of Washington Press 2015) and Justice Delayed by Peter Irons (Wesleyan University Press 1989).

This L.A. Theatre Works recording is one of two sponsored by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, a state-funded grant project of the California State Library.

Minami Tamaki LLP Announces Retirement of Partner Minette Kwok and Transition of Donald Tamaki to Senior Counsel

Minami Tamaki LLP Announces Retirement of Partner Minette Kwok and Transition of Donald Tamaki to Senior Counsel

Minami Tamaki LLP today announced that Partner Minette A. Kwok will retire from the firm and that Managing Partner Donald K. Tamaki will transition into a Senior Counsel position, both effective on January 1, 2021.

Minette has led Minami Tamaki LLP’s immigration law practice for more than two decades, growing it into an award-winning and successful practice nationally recognized and ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

“Minette developed a solid team of stellar, hardworking professionals and nurtured a firm culture promoting collegiality, collaboration, and mutual respect,” said Don Tamaki who worked with Minette since she joined the firm in 1990 as the first woman Partner. “She built an immigration law practice with superb clients, including numerous technology leaders, and dedicated countless hours to the nation’s immigration bar and to community organizations. Minette is an inspiration to all attorneys.” 

Minette’s achievements during her 30-year career include recognized leadership in AILA, numerous awards and recognition for legal excellence, and years of service on nonprofit boards and pro bono work.

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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.

Man Suffers New Brain Injury In Rear-End Collision: $1.5 Million Settlement

Man Suffers New Brain Injury In Rear-End Collision: $1.5 Million Settlement

Minami Tamaki LLP represented a 50-year-old IT worker whose car was rear-ended by a Dr. Pepper salesman who was on his way home after making his last delivery for the day. After answering paramedics’ questions at the scene, our client suddenly fell unconscious and required mechanical assistance to breathe. He recovered after a brief hospitalization, but was left with cognitive deficits, including memory problems, loss of focus and attention, and disordered thinking. 

He had suffered a brain injury seven years before the crash, and imaging studies were unable to identify any new brain injury from this crash. We argued that he had indeed suffered a traumatic brain injury from the crash, based on his symptoms of short-term memory loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression, and inability to work.. 

Our first hurdle was to prove that Dr. Pepper’s auto insurance policy should cover its salesman for the crash. Although the crash occurred while he was off the clock, we proved that our client’s situation fell within an exception to the general rule that an employer is not liable for accidents during its employees’ commute to and from work. We showed that he had to travel for work and was reimbursed for mileage during his commute. Dr. Pepper’s insurance company was forced to compensate our client for his injuries. 

Our second hurdle was to overcome the argument that our client’s cognitive deficits were due to his prior brain injury, which admittedly had left him with residual cognitive problems. To counter this, we deposed our client’s former employers, friends, and family to show he was functioning well after his prior brain injury but had deteriorated significantly after the subject crash. We also hired experts in the fields of neurology, psychiatry, neuropsychology, and vocational rehabilitation,who stated our client would be unable to continue working as a result of his cognitive limitations. Although our client returned to work after the crash, we argued Dr. Pepper should pay for his potential future loss of earnings. 

Shortly after mediation, Mark Fong and Seema Bhatt settled the case for $1.5 million for the client and his wife, who sued for loss of his companionship.

Autistic Man Dies from Improper Restraint During Field Trip: $2.625 Million Settlement

Autistic Man Dies from Improper Restraint During Field Trip: $2.625 Million Settlement

Our clients’ son, a 26-year-old autistic man, was on a field trip to a museum while in the care of his adult day program. He suffered a physical and emotional outburst during the trip, which resulted in him being held face down on the floor by museum staff, who were untrained in methods of proper restraint. 

The young man died at the scene of positional asphyxia, which is suffocation caused by the way a person is restrained. Mark Fong and Seema Bhatt took numerous depositions establishing that the day program’s chaperones violated nearly all of the program’s policies and procedures and allowed the young man to die. 

Despite the museum’s claim that its employees did nothing wrong, we established that their untrained employees were required to intervene because the museum had inadequate onsite security. To give a true picture of the life of the young man and the loving bond he shared with his parents, we culled through hundreds of home videos and photos from the day of his birth until a few weeks before his death and created a movie about his life, which we showed to the mediator and defendants. This video also showed that the outburst he displayed at the time of his death was only a very small part of who the young man was. 

At mediation, Mark Fong and Seema Bhatt obtained a settlement of $2.625 million on behalf of the young man’s parents (the adult day program’s policy limits were capped at $2 million).

Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2020 Super Lawyers

Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2020 Super Lawyers

TOP ROW (L-R): Donald K. Tamaki*; Minette A. Kwok*; Dale Minami* Top 100; B. Mark Fong*; Olivia Serene Lee**; MIDDLE ROW (L-R): Lisa P. Mak**; Seema Bhatt**; Suhi Koizumi*; Sean Tamura-Sato**; La Verne A. Ramsay; BOTTOM ROW (L-R): Dian Sohn; Angela C. Mapa; Claire Y. Choo; Judy Hinh Wong; Leyla Mostafavi – *Chosen to 2020 Super Lawyers **Chosen to 2020 Rising Stars 

We’re proud to announce that nine of Minami Tamaki LLP’s attorneys were selected as Northern California Super Lawyers and Rising Stars for 2020. Two of our Partners and our Senior Counsel have been named Northern California Super Lawyers for the last 17 consecutive years.

PERSONAL INJURY 
Dale Minami (Top 10, 2013-2018; Top 100, 2007-2020; Super Lawyers, 17 years) 
B. Mark Fong (Super Lawyers, 11 years) 
Seema Bhatt (Rising Stars, 4 years) 

IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY LAW 
Minette A. Kwok (Top 50 Women Northern California, 2014-2016; Super Lawyers, 17 years) 
Olivia Serene Lee (Rising Stars, 7 years) 
Suhi Koizumi (Super Lawyers, 2 years; Rising Star, 8 years) 

CONSUMER AND EMPLOYEE RIGHTS 
Sean Tamura-Sato (Rising Stars, 8 years) 
Lisa P. Mak (Rising Stars, 6 years) 

CORPORATE/NONPROFIT 
Donald K. Tamaki (Super Lawyers, 17 years) 

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is independent, and attorneys cannot purchase placements on the list.

New in ABA Journal Character Witness series: ‘A Life of Fighting Injustice’

New in ABA Journal Character Witness series: ‘A Life of Fighting Injustice’

The ABA Journal Character Witness series explores legal and societal issues through the first-person lens of attorneys in the trenches who are, inter alia, on a mission to defend liberty and pursue justice. The latest installment is “A life of fighting injustice“.

BY DALE MINAMI

I am a third-generation Japanese American. My grandparents emigrated from Southern Japan in the early 1900s seeking “streets of gold” and fleeing deteriorating conditions in their home country. My parents were born in California, citizens by birth. But they were incarcerated with their families during World War II, solely because of their ancestry: first in fetid horse stalls, and later in dismal prisons in the Arkansas swamplands. I was born at the Japanese Hospital in East Los Angeles, the only hospital that admitted Japanese doctors then. My father was a farmer, a gardener and the owner of a small sporting goods store. My mother worked there and at home. I have two older brothers who taught me lessons involving books, sports and unwanted violence upon my person—all valuable lessons later in life.

My parents rarely talked about their degrading incarceration experience, but by their example I was taught to honor the Founding Fathers’ prescription that all Americans are created equal and should be treated accordingly. But watching the civil rights movement unfold on television in the early 1960s, when peaceful African American demonstrators were attacked by vicious dogs and water cannons just because they wanted to eat at a restaurant, utterly confused me. As did the Watts rebellion in 1965—witnessing Los Angeles seemingly burning down, ignited by the frustrations of African Americans whose “American dream” was really a nightmare.

Year of unrest

I could not reconcile the elegant rhetoric of the American promise with such appalling events and with the subtle racism I experienced at the University of Southern California. I graduated in political science with no marketable skills besides selling Converse athletic shoes. My best option was to attend law school. So in 1968, I stepped onto the Berkeley Law campus, where virtually every day produced a new protest or demonstration accompanied by the sting of tear gas. To me, it was the epicenter of our (boomers) generation’s coming of age in such turbulent times. In that year, milestone events erupted—student protests around the world, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, black-gloved fists raised by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico City Olympics protesting racism in the USA, the Democratic National Convention riots, bloody anti-Vietnam War protests against a meaningless conflict, and perhaps the most influential event for me—the Third World Liberation Front strike at San Francisco State University challenging the narrative of history that minimized and distorted the stories, cultures, contributions and characters of people of color.

I was drawn to issues of injustice, and I only later realized how my passion and outrage was formed by my experiences at USC and the urgency of a life-and-death mandate to fight in Vietnam. Perhaps the greatest influence on my perspective was personal—the unjust banishment and imprisonment of my family and 120,000 other Japanese Americans in violation of their Constitutional rights to an attorney, a trial or notice of criminal charges, all justified by a vague and unsupported claim of “military necessity.” The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of my family’s exile in Korematsu v. United States. The law had failed my community.

By the miracle of relaxed grading, I graduated from Berkeley Law and passed the bar. A group of friends and I started a nonprofit community interest law firm, the Asian Law Caucus, dedicated to helping empower the Asian Pacific American community—a populace invisible to the rest of the country whose history, culture, problems and achievements were widely misunderstood or ignored.

We bonded with a fierce collective purpose to make the system responsive to our communities. The ALC unintentionally evolved into a nonprofit private law practice. We were inept at managing a law practice as a business: We focused so much on pro bono social justice causes that we ignored rent and bills!

Anxiety over our lack of practical skills became a nighttime companion, especially without day-to-day mentors. So every Wednesday, I would pack a lunch and hunker down in the law library to study practice books all day. I had to self-educate since I accepted virtually any civil or criminal case that walked through the door.

But besides our lack of experience and knowledge, we faced other daunting opponents—racist and hostile treatment by judges who used slurs or sarcastically asked me, a Japanese American, to translate for my Chinese-speaking client. We suffered through conferences and hearings where judges clearly favored nonminority opposing counsel. Many nights I returned home with my head on fire, outraged and angered. We realized that changing the composition of the bench was the best strategy. So we embarked on a campaign to transform the complexion and gender of the bench through lobbying governors, joining judicial applicant review committees, running candidates and developing contacts with influential allies. The lack of diversity, we realized, derived from lack of power. We have since made great progress, but there are miles to go before we sleep.

Seeking justice

We made a living, but I was most drawn to nonremunerative social justice cases—fighting for tenure for professor Don Nakanishi at UCLA; class action lawsuits against discriminatory police sweeps; lawsuits against systematic discrimination at a major insurance company; suing a university to implement an Asian American Studies program; and the overturning of Fred Korematsu’s 40-year-old conviction for his resistance to military orders banishing Japanese Americans.

Korematsu’s conviction during WWII was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1944 in a landmark and much-criticized decision justifying the exile of Japanese Americans. But the more dangerous precedent was the Supreme Court’s near-total deference to the fraudulent proof presented and later revealed in our case—that the government altered, suppressed and destroyed evidence contradicting the government’s claim of disloyalty and the danger of Japanese Americans.

We still hear the echoes of history today. And it is infuriating to see the demonization repeated against Muslims, Arabs, immigrants and marginalized groups. It is also disheartening to repeat the same deference to the president that was the centerpiece of the Korematsu case. Our campaign, Stop Repeating History (stoprepeatinghistory.org), hopes to remind America of the damage racism and unfettered power can wreak on disfavored people and on our nation’s soul.

Maybe the path I took was somewhat nonlinear. I was trying to navigate in a racialized society, harmonizing my love for this country with the cruelty it inflicted and admiring the rule of law but recognizing its limitations. In a midcareer crisis, I once questioned whether I should find another occupation. I lined up the qualities I wanted in a job, measured them against my strengths and weaknesses, and discovered that I was best fit to practice law with my partners who have the same passion for justice, hard work and great legal skills. I never had to look back.

This article appeared in the June/July 2020 issue of the ABA Journal under the headline: “A Life of Fighting Injustice.”

Seema Bhatt Selected for National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 under 40

Seema Bhatt Selected for National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 under 40

Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Seema Bhatt has been selected for The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 under 40, a professional organization of the top trial lawyers from each state or region who are under the age of 40.

Membership into The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 under 40 is by invitation only and is extended exclusively to those trial lawyers practicing civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense law.

Seema is part of Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury Group, representing clients who have been injured through the negligence of others in auto accidents, slips and falls, pedestrian accidents, as a result of defective products and medical malpractice, and in other unfortunate situations.

Seema has also been recognized as a Northern California Super Lawyer Rising Star from 2017 to 2019. Several of her cases were recognized by Top Verdict’s Top 100 Settlements in California in 2016 and by Leaders in the Law in its 2017 “Northern California’s Leading Lawyers” publication.

U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” has recognized Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury Group as Metro Tier 1 for six consecutive years.

The National Trial Lawyers says that its Top 40 under 40 membership is extended solely to the select few of the most qualified attorneys from each state. Invitees must exemplify superior qualifications, trial results, and leadership as a young lawyer under the age of 40.

Selection to the Top 40 under 40 is based on a thorough multi-phase objective process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2020 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration Practice with New National Ranking and Personal Injury Practice with Tier 1 in Metro Area

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2020 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration Practice with New National Ranking and Personal Injury Practice with Tier 1 in Metro Area

Minami Tamaki LLP’s Immigration and Nationality Law practice is now nationally ranked on the new 2020 U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list, which was just released today.

The firm’s immigration practice received a National Tier 3 ranking for the first time, and a Metro Tier 1 ranking for the fifth consecutive year.

U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” recognized the firm’s personal injury practice as Metro Tier 1 for the sixth consecutive year.

The rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

To be eligible for a U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers in that particular practice area and metro.

Earlier this year, The Best Lawyers in America recognized Partners Minette Kwok, B. Mark Fong, Olivia Serene Lee, Suhi Koizumi, and Senior Counsel Dale Minami, which qualified the firm to be considered for the Best Law Firms list.

The Immigration and Nationality Law Practice Group of Minami Tamaki LLP offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services, routinely assisting employers and employees in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. The firm’s immigration attorneys also help individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships.

Partner Minette A. Kwok leads the firm’s immigration practice group, which includes Partner Olivia Serene Lee, Partner Suhi Koizumi, Senior Associate La Verne A. Ramsay, Senior Associate Angela C. Mapa, and Associates Dian Sohn and Judy Hinh Wong.

The attorneys in Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury Practice Group fight for the rights of people who are injured or have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the carelessness of others. A team approach brings all of the resources of the practice group to cases. This has allowed the firm to recover multimillion-dollar settlements and verdicts for their clients.

Senior Counsel Dale Minami founded the firm’s personal injury practice, which is led by Partner B. Mark Fong and includes Associate Seema Bhatt.