Rose Matsui Ochi was born in East Los Angeles, California on December 15, 1938. Following the outbreak of World War II, young Ms. Ochi’s family was rounded up to live in the horse stables of the Santa Anita racetracks before being railroaded to Rohwer, one of America’s concentration camps for Japanese Americans at the time. Upon release, her parents were subjected to deportation, but were rescued by civil rights lawyers. Her family’s tragic experience taught her about injustices and about the power to right wrongs.
In order to fight for rights and social justice, Ms. Ochi decided to go into law. After earning a B.A. from University of California, Los Angeles and M.S. from California State University, Los Angeles, she earned a J.D. from Loyola Law School. She began her career as a ‘Reggie’, a poverty lawyer, at U.S.C. Western Center on Law and Poverty and served as the co-counsel of record in Serrano v. Priest, the landmark educational law reform case. Ms. Ochi has since served on the state bar and Legal Services Commission, has worked as a Disciplinary Referee, and was the first AA Board of Trustees member for the LA County Bar Association.
Recently, she helped to rescue Tuna Canyon WWII Detention Camp by getting Council approval for Historic Designation. She is currently temporarily retired and plans to resume work as an attorney and civil rights activist after her celebratory 50th marriage anniversary. (July 2013)