During the month of May, the country celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, recognizing the contributions AAPIs have made to our state and nation. The Asian Bar Association of Washington (ABAW) was founded in 1987, when the 9th Circuit corrected an injustice with its decision in the Gordon Hirabayashi coram nobis case(one of three landmark cases overturning wrongful convictions of Japanese-Americans during World War II). Attorneys in Washington state who helped reverse Mr. Hirabayashi’s convictions also founded the ABAW to serve as the voice for the local AAPI legal community.
The ABAW continues to speak for the AAPI community; it joined the Seattle University School of Law’s Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality to fight stereotypes that arise in the legal system. In a recent medical malpractice case, jurors were heard to refer to the plaintiff’s attorney, who was Japanese American, as “Mr. Miyagi,” “Mr. Miyashi,” and “Mr. Kamikaze,” and were reported to have said that it was “almost appropriate” that the verdict, which was entered for the defendants, was being rendered on Pearl Harbor Day. See Turner v. Stime, 153 Wash. App. 581, 222 P.3d 1243 (2009). The ABAW recognized the importance of addressing the stereotypes present in this case and partnered with the Korematsu Center to file an amicus brief to request a new trial. The appellate court granted the request for a new trial based on juror misconduct and relied on the amicus brief filed jointly by the Korematsu Center and ABAW. After a new trial, a jury awarded the plaintiff $813,000.
By speaking for the AAPI community to address stereotypes in the legal system, the ABAW hopes to benefit all communities of color and looks forward to partnering with other organizations. If you want to learn more about the ABAW, please visit the ABAW website or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you at our 26th Annual Gala on Oct. 18, 2013, at Olive 8, where our keynote speaker will be California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu.