Donald K. Tamaki received his BA, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of California at Berkeley in 1973, and also received his JD from Berkeley in 1976. He is Managing Partner of Minami Tamaki LLP in San Francisco, representing business and non-profit clients.
In 1976, he received a Reginald Heber Smith fellowship to practice poverty law in San Jose, and co-founded the Asian Law Alliance, which has represented thousands of poor and low-income clients. From 1980 to 1983, he was Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, and served on the legal team which reopened the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court case of Fred Korematsu, overturning his criminal conviction for defying the removal of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans. The reopening was based on newly discovered evidence from the Justice Department, Navy, FBI, and FCC which had been suppressed from the Court, admitting that Japanese Americans had committed no wrong and posed no threat.
In 2012-13, he served on the legal team representing the California State Bar urging the state supreme court to admit Sergio Garcia to the bar, notwithstanding his undocumented immigrant status. The combined efforts of Garcia, the State Bar and the legislature resulted in the court admitting Garcia. Other states have followed this ground-breaking decision, including Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.
In 2017-18, he served on the legal team filing an amicus brief in Trump v. Hawaii for the children of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui, reminding the court that in 1944 when it abdicated its role as a check on the executive branch, it was a civil liberties disaster, demonstrating the peril to democracy when courts blindly defer to the government’s unsubstantiated claim that national security justifies curtailment of fundamental liberties. Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited the brief in her dissent.
Don has received the State Bar of California’s Loren Miller Legal Services Award in 1987, the ACLU (Northern California) Civil Liberties Award in 2003, the NAPABA Trailblazer Award in 2003, NAPABA President’s Award co-recipient in 2018, and Superlawyer designation since 2004.
Articles, Publications, and Appearances
Don Tamaki speaks around the country as a part of the Stop Repeating History Campaign.
Korematsu overruled or reaffirmed? (Nichi Bei, August 2, 2018)
In the News
Stateside: Lessons from Japanese American WWII internment (NPR Michigan, January 30, 2020)
Connecting the dots between the travel ban and Japanese American incarceration. (NPR San Francisco, March 13, 2019)
Ahead of Supreme Court fight, Trump travel ban opponents reflect on past anti-Asian policies (NBC News, April 24, 2018)