Activist attorney Dale Minami will be awarded the American Bar Association’s highest honor when it presents him with its ABA Medal.
Minami is best known for overturning the conviction of Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American who challenged the order to report to an incarceration camp during World War II.
“Dale Minami has devoted a lifetime to breaking down stereotypes and advocating for Asian Pacific Americans,” ABA President Bob Carlson said. “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 jumped into action when presented with evidence uncovered by history professor Peter Irons that the government withheld evidence that Japanese Americans posed no threat to the country. The Justice Department offered Korematsu a pardon after the new evidence surfaced. Korematsu refused to accept it.
“Fred and Kathryn indignantly stated, almost in unison, that we don’t want to accept the pardon,” Minami told the ABA Journal. If anything, we should pardon the government,” recalls Minami, a personal injury lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area. “And that strength of character and strength of righteousness really inspired us to continue.”
Minami is a founder of the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco which grew into Asian Americans Advancing Justice/Asian Law Caucus. He also founded the law firm Minami/Takaki in the mid-70’s.
” I think one of the things that I’m most proud of is having a minority firm survive for 44 years, and with a sense of values, sense of principles,” he says. “We were tested many times. … But over the years, I think, on balance, we’ve been able both to do good and do well.”
Minami has previously received the ABA’s Thurgood Marshall Award and Spirit of Excellence Award. He will receive the ABA Medal at the ABA’s General Assembly August 10 in San Francisco.
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