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Minami honored for civil rights work

San Francisco attorney Dale Minami, long a leader in the Asian civil rights community and a key member of the legal team that spotlighted the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, will receive the 2003 Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association.

Dale Minami

Minami, 56, a partner with Minami, Lew & Tamaki, co-founded the Asian Law Caucus Inc., the first Asian Pacific American community legal service organization in the nation, in 1972, and the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, the first Asian American Bar Association in the country, in 1976.

Throughout his career, he has handled significant litigation involving the civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities.

He probably is best known for serving as lead counsel for the legal team which successfully reopened the cases of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui. U.S. citizens who resisted the wartime internment of Japanese Americans, they were convicted at trial and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the convictions in 1944. The convictions were vacated through Minami's efforts and Korematsu was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.

"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 Georgina C. Verdugo, chair of the award committee. "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."

Minami also is credited with influencing the selection of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans, as well as Asians, for executive and judicial appointments at both the state and federal levels. He also served as a commissioner with the State of California Fair Employment and Housing Commission in 1981-84 and chaired the Attorney General's Asian/Pacific Advisory Committee in 1988-90. In 1994, President Clinton appointed him to a three-year term as chair of the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund Commission.

The award will be presented in August at the ABA annual meeting.

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