ABA to Award Medal to Civil Rights Attorney

Washington – The American Bar Association announced that it will honor San Francisco attorney Dale Minami, a lifelong champion of the civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities, with the ABA Medal – the association’s highest honor. 

Minami is best known for leading the legal team that overturned the conviction of Fred Korematsu, an American of Japanese descent who was arrested for refusing to enter an internment center in 1942. His case led to the historic challenge of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II in the case Korematsu v. United States.

The ABA Medal recognizes exceptionally distinguished service by a lawyer or lawyers to the cause of American jurisprudence.

Minami, senior counsel with the personal injury law firm Minami Tamaki LLP, will be presented with the ABA Medal in San Francisco on Aug. 10.

“Dale Minami has devoted a lifetime to breaking down stereotypes and advocating for Asian Pacific Americans,” ABA President Bob Carlson said in a news release. “His work in overturning Korematsu is legal legend, but it is just one of many instances in his career where he has fought for the protection of the rights of people who have been discriminated against. His determination and commitment to the rule of law has resulted in countless people receiving justice.”

 Minami was key in obtaining judicial recognition that the evacuation and incarceration of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II was unjust and illegal. Although the Supreme Court in 1944 upheld the constitutionality of the internment in Korematsu, Minami and his team successfully challenged that ruling 40 years later.

With documents discovered in 1981 from the National Archives that demonstrated that government officials knowingly used false evidence to justify its evacuation order, Minami assembled the legal teams that petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to vacate the convictions of Korematsu and two other Japanese Americans convicted of similar misconduct allegations. Serving as lead counsel for Korematsu in 1983, Minami prevailed in voiding the conviction; the two other defendants had their convictions overturned in separate cases. 

In 2017, Minami, representing the adult children of Korematsu, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court review of the government’s travel ban, which resulted in the High Court’s explicit repudiation of the 1944 Korematsu decision via its review of Trump v. Hawaii.

“As an attorney in a small minority-owned law firm, I was a bit surprised when Bob Carlson, the president of the ABA, even called me, then astonished when he informed me that I was chosen as the ABA Medal recipient,” Minami said in a release.  “Given the list of illustrious past awardees, I now just think it is surreal, yet still a testament to the ABA’s recognition of Asian Pacific American attorneys as integral members of the ABA and legal profession. I am grateful.”

Notably, Minami worked with others in the Asian American community to form some of the organizations that are still the powerhouses for Asian civil rights. He was a co-founder of the Asian Law Caucus, the first community interest law firm serving Asian Pacific Americans in the country.

Minami earned his J.D. in 1971 from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California.

– American Bar Association

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