The JABA Legacy Project: Legal Legends in the Nikkei Community

The Japanese American Bar Association (JABA) Legacy Project compiles profiles of legal legends and leaders in the Japanese American community through written articles and oral histories. In particular, this project focuses on eminent attorneys’ distinguished careers, their work for the Nikkei community, and their service to society.

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: Two Generations of Pioneering Judges in the Nikkei Community by Sakura Kato (2014)
- “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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Janice Fukai: Justice for All

As her title suggests, Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender Janice Y. Fukai defends members of the public in court who have been accused of criminal acts. As the Alternate Public Defender, Ms. Fukai heads a county office comprised of 300 employees, including over 200 attorneys who represent criminal defendants that the county’s Public Defender is unable to defend due to conflicts of interest or other reasons.

But what is truly respectable and remarkable about her position is that she and her staff help those who need legal assistance but who are unable to afford an attorney. The reason for her …

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Rose Ochi: On Selfless Service

“You need to, as an organization or as an individual, find ways to support individuals in the community.”

This was one of the final remarks made by Rose Ochi, a distinguished attorney and prominent civil rights activist, in this year’s first JABA Legacy Project interview. This profound message was marked with a sense of finality after all that was said before. But to fully understand the meaning of this advice, it is important to learn more about her personal history and career accomplishments.

Ms. Ochi’s early life includes memories of the sorrowful internment experience during World War II. As a …

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