Becoming first AA State Bar President in California

Neighbor took care of her mother after grandfather was taken by FBI Her grandfather was pressured to teach Japanese Camp stories impact on her career Japanese American identity Importance of overcoming Asian American stereotypes Challenges faced by female judges Becoming first AA State Bar President in California Receiving support from Sonia Sotomayer to run for the bench Advice to young lawyers

Transcripts available in the following languages:

At that time, the way it worked was that you were elected together with a class to the Board of Governors and it was a three-year term, your third year you decided whether you will run for President of the State Bar. And there were 21, 23 members of the board and you would have to win an absolute majority of that number, and I thought about that-- should I run, and at the time it was a pretty white male group, and I was concerned that I would lose and I always said that there was that Japanese, not wanting to lose face thing. And back then, uh the candidates for the President of the State Bar were on the front page of the State Bar journal, which every single lawyer in the state received. So there it would be, and I knew if I didn’t win for years afterward, decades, for the rest of my life people would be saying to me, “Weren’t you going to be the President of the State Bar?” and I'd have to say, no-no I wasn’t.

It was something where I thought, you know, I don’t want to humiliate myself. And that changed when I was, I was at a State Bar annual meeting and I was just sitting on the dais and...with Judge Kozinski and Mayor Villaraigosa and...say nothing, but they wanted to have a member of the Board of Governors sitting up there, so I sat up there throughout lunch. And afterwards I was just getting down off of the stage, and I saw Justice Kathryn Doi Todd walking down the aisle. And she came up to me and she said, ‘you know I was so proud to see you up there, as a Japanese American woman, sitting up there with those luminaries… it was just so … I was so proud.” And I thought, I just sat there, I didn’t do anything, I didn’t say anything… and I thought and I was able to make somebody as important and as iconic as Justice Kathryn Doi Todd proud, just by sitting up there. I thought how can I be so chicken and so lame as to not at least try to become President of the State Bar. And so I decided then, I have to run. And I ran as hard as I could, and I figured if I didn’t get it, it would not be for lack of trying and I was elected, and I was very very proud to be the first Asian American State Bar President of the state of California.

Date: July 11, 2019
Location: California, US
Interviewer: Kayla Tanaka
Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum; Japanese American Bar Association

california election Katherine Doi Todd state bar

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