The San Mateo Bar Association Diversity Committee honored Partner Dale Minami and California Supreme Court Associate Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar at its annual event on Sept. 20 at the Old Historic Courthouse in Redwood City, Calif.
The Bar Association’s Diversity Committee works with local public schools, colleges, and law schools to encourage a diverse base of students to become attorneys who will ultimately practice in San Mateo County.
Minami provided insight into his career devoted to civil rights issues, including the overturning of Fred Korematsu’s criminal conviction for defying the internment of American citizens in Korematsu v. United States. In his remarks, Minami shared how, early in his career, there were few Asian American judges or even attorneys, and related anecdotes from his personal experience regarding inappropriate conduct by judges and attorneys.
Minami shared his experiences through his career of successfully advocating for the appointment of judges who more accurately reflect the communities in which they sit.
“He was both captivating and motivating,” wrote W. George Wailes, president of the San Mateo Bar Association, in the Bar’s newsletter.
“It was a privilege to be recognized by the San Mateo County Bar,” said Minami. “The Bar’s Diversity Committee does important work, knowing that having a more representative bar and bench can only improve the legal profession.”
“I especially want to thank Sandy Narayan and Kristina Chung for starting the Diversity Committee, Judge Elizabeth Lee for acting as Liaison to the San Mateo Bar Association and San Mateo Bar Association President George Wailes for his support,” added Minami.
Justice Werdegar shared some of the challenges she faced in her career, including how difficult it was to find a job despite her achievements in law school. She was first in her class and the first woman to be elected editor-in-chief of the California Law Review at Berkeley Law. She completed her law studies at George Washington University, where she graduated first in her class.
Justice Werdegar spoke about her service in the Justice Department in the early 1960s during the forced integration of schools in the South, and her years of public service with the courts. She said that even one woman on a court enhances and broadens the perspective of all of the bench officers.
“It is critical for firms to continue to push for diversity and provide flexibility to attorneys to ensure a diverse contingent of professionals representative of the community,” she said.
Photos courtesy of Soyeun Choi. See more photos here.