The JABA Legacy Project: Two Generations of Pioneering Judges in the Nikkei Community

Entering into its third year, JABA’s Legacy Project seeks to preserve the histories of prominent Japanese American jurists in the community. The profiles pay special attention to the jurists' reflections on their professional careers in the legal field as well as their Japanese American identity and experience. In particular, the two profiles in this third series highlight 2 generations of Japanese American judges- Judge Tashima, a Nisei, and Judge Fujioka, a Sansei- and their differing perspectives and expereinces in becoming a judge.

This is one of the main projects completed by The Nikkei Community Internship (NCI) Program intern each summer, which the Japanese American Bar Association and the Japanese American National Museum have co-hosted.

Check out other JABA Legacy Project articles published by past NCI interns: 

- Series: Pioneering Jurists in the Nikkei Community by Lawrence Lan (2012)
- Series: Legal Legends in the Nikkei Community by Sean Hamamoto (2013)
- “Judge Holly J. Fujie—An Inspirational Woman Who Was Herself Inspired by Japanese American History and Community” by Kayla Tanaka (2019)
- “Mia Yamamoto—A Leader Who Defined the Nikkei Community” by Matthew Saito (2020)
- “Patricia Kinaga—Attorney, Activist, and Mother Who Has Given a Voice to Those Who Don’t Have One” by Laura Kato (2021)
- “Justice Sabrina McKenna—The First Openly LGBTQ Asian American to Serve on a State Court of Last Resort” by Lana Kobayashi (2022)

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Judge A. Wallace Tashima: A Judge Who Looks Like Us

Living in the bleak barracks of a WWII concentration camp, the young Judge A. Wallace Tashima could sense “a dark atmosphere [in American society], that there was something sinister about being Japanese.”

Because all persons of Japanese ancestry were branded as “un-American” and “subversive,” Tashima grew up during a time when Japanese Americans like himself could not be conceived as judges.

Yet in becoming the first Japanese American elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Judge Tashima has successfully proven otherwise and now upholds the promises of the Constitution that were once denied to him and the entire Japanese American …

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Judge Fred J. Fujioka: Honoring our Past and Empowering our Future - Part 2

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Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling  

Over the 17 years that he practiced as an attorney, both in the Public Defender’s Office and in private practice, he recalls being one of very few Japanese American criminal defense attorneys.

“I did everything from drunk driving trials to death penalty trials. I wasn’t afraid. I would try anything. And so to me, to be able to be a criminal defense attorney was real important because it broke the stereotype of the quiet Asian,” Fujioka said.

Yet in being one of the few Japanese American criminal defense attorneys in the …

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Judge Fred J. Fujioka: Honoring our Past and Empowering our Future - Part 1

On January 7, 1951, Moto Hayami held her newborn grandson in her arms and prophetically said, “Fred is going to be the lawyer of the Fujioka family.”* 

Indeed, Judge Fred J. Fujioka of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County has fulfilled his grandmother’s expectations in becoming not only the “lawyer of the Fujioka family,” but also the community organizer, the political activist, and last but not least, the judge of the Fujioka family.

A Long Line of Japanese American Legacies

Judge Fujioka hails from a long line of Japanese American legacies that he proudly showcases inside his chambers at …

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