Friday, February 28, 2003
Lawyer Dale Minami Cited for Civil Rights Leadership
By a MetNews Staff Writer
San Francisco attorney Dale Minami, who led the legal team that helped vacate the convictions of Japanese American wartime internees, has been named to receive the 2003 Thurgood Marshall Award, presented annually by the American Bar Association’s Individual Rights and Responsibilities section.
Minami, 56, a partner in the firm of Minami, Lew & Tamaki, primarily practices personal injury and entertainment law, and has served as counsel to a number of well-known athletes and entertainers such as Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi.
But Minami is known in the civil rights community for having organized and led the legal team that in the 1980s successfully reopened the case of Fred Korematsu, a U.S. citizens who resisted the wartime internment only to be convicted at trial and have his conviction upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944.
Korematsu was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.
The convictions of Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui also were overturned through Minami’s efforts.
Minami also was involved in the case of United Pilipinos for Affirmative Action v. California Blue Shield, and Spokane JACL v. Washington State University, both class action lawsuits on behalf of Asian Americans. He also was involved in Nakanishi v. UCLA, a suit over denial of tenure that brought attention to the issue of discrimination in the academic world.
As a graduate from Boalt Hall School of Law in 1971, Minami helped found the Asian Law Caucus, the nation’s first Asian Pacific American community legal service organization. He also founded the nation’s first Asian American bar association in 1976.
As an adviser to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and President Bill Clinton, he Minami is credited with influencing the selection of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans for executive and judicial appointments at both the state and federal levels.
Mark Agrast, chair of the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, called Minami “a hero to all who believe that ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ is not merely a slogan, but an aspiration worth fighting for.”
Thurgood Marshall Award Committee chair Georgina C. Verdugo called Minami a role model for lawyers and all Americans.
“In a climate that tested the patriotism and civil rights of selected Americans, Dale Minami’s work sought, not just reparation for those wronged, but a better course for everyone,” Verdugo said. “His lifelong efforts on behalf of equality are as critical today as they were to Japanese Americans after World War II. He is a role model for all Americans, and has lived the true calling of a lawyer, to seek justice where it has not prevailed.”
A Los Angeles native, Minami graduated from USC in 1968 and went to Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley for law school. He was admitted to the State Bar in 1972.
He later taught at Berkeley and also served as a member of the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission. From 1985 through 1987, he served as a Commissioner on the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominee’s Evaluation.
Minami also was the executive producer of an independent feature film, the 1999 murder mystery “Life Tastes Good.”
The award will be presented at the section’s Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner Aug. 9 during the 2003 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company