Spring 2003

Dale Minami to Receive 2003 ABA Thurgood Marshall Award

Dale Minami, a San Francisco-based lawyer, will receive the ABA's 2003 Thurgood Marshall Award in recognition of his work to vacate the convictions of Japanese-Americans in the wartime internment cases and other work to advance equality for all Japanese Americans.

The award will be presented at the 2003 Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner on Saturday, Aug. 9, during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Calif.

"Dale Minami is a hero to all who believe that 'Equal Justice Under Law' is not merely a slogan, but an aspiration worth fighting for," said Section Chair Mark D. Agrast. "By working to vacate the convictions of Fred Korematsu and the other defendants in the wartime internment cases, he helped to right a great historical wrong. And by co-founding the Asian Law Caucus, he helped ensure that access to justice is not denied to those who cannot afford an attorney. Through these and other efforts, he has truly exemplified the spirit of Thurgood Marshall that we honor with this award."

A graduate of the University of California Law School and the University of Southern California, Minami has practiced law in the San Francisco area since 1972, first with the Asian Law Caucus, which he co-founded, and later with a law firm now operating as Minami, Lew & Tamaki. Much of Minami's practice challenges employment discrimination in class actions, as well as in individual complaints.

He is perhaps best known for his work in vacating the convictions of Fred Korematsu and other defendants in the wartime internment cases, helping to right a great historical wrong. He currently lectures on the importance of civil rights and civil liberties, reminding many of the lessons of the Korematsu case as the country continues to work through the conflict between civil rights and national security needs.

In addition to his work for the Japanese-American community, he is credited with influencing the selection of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asians for executive and judicial appointments at the state and federal levels. His involvement in other issues of concern to minorities is extensive. In 1994, President Clinton appointed him to a three-year term as chair of the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund Commission. From 1988 to 1992 he was president of the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans and from 1988 to 1990 he was chair of the Attorney General's Asian/Pacific Advisory Committee. He served as a commissioner with the State of California Fair Employment and Housing Commission in 1981-84.

In addition to the Asian Law Caucus, Minami co-founded the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, the first Asian American Bar Association in the country, in 1976. He was also among the founders of the Asian Pacific Bar of California, established in 1988.

"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," said Thurgood Marshall Award Committee Chair Georgina C. Verdugo. "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."

For more information about the awards dinner, contact the Section office (tel.: 202/662-1030) or visit the Section's website at www.abanet.org/irr.

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