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910 17th St., N.W., Suite 315
Washington, D.C. 20006

November 22, 2006

(202) 775-9555

NAPABA Announces 2006 Trailblazer Award Honorees

Washington, D.C. – The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) announced the recipients of its highest honor, the NAPABA Trailblazer Award, for 2006 at its 18th Annual Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Trailblazer Award recognizes the outstanding achievements, commitment and leadership of NAPABA lawyers who have paved the way for the advancement of other Asian Pacific American attorneys. As part of its annual convention, NAPABA honors a member from each region who meets these criteria. The honorees are selected by the regional governors and the affiliates in their region. Thus, the paths and achievements of the awardees are often very different. However, they all have had careers and otherwise made contributions that demonstrate vision, courage and tenacity, and which have resulted in a substantial and lasting contribution to the Asian Pacific American legal community, as well as the broader Asian Pacific American community. For their extraordinary accomplishments and for serving as role models and inspiration for other Asian Pacific American lawyers, NAPABA honors these trailblazers.

NAPABA Trailblazer Award Recipients:

  • Wan J. Kim – Southeast Region
  • Gary Locke – Northwest Region
  • Hon. Karen Gren Johnson – Southwest Region
  • Yabo Lin – Central Region
  • Hon. Jacqueline H. Nguyen – California Central Region
  • Hon. Nho Trong Nguyen – California Southern Region
  • Hon. Anthony W. Ishii – California Eastern Region
  • Joan M. Haratani – California Northern Region
  • Dennis Morikawa – Northeast Region

Biographies of the awardees follow this press release and are also available on the NAPABA website at www.napaba.org in the “News” section.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of over 40,000 attorneys and 50 local Asian Pacific American bar associations. Its members represent solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal service and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government. NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes professional development of minorities in the legal profession.

2006 NAPABA Trailblazer Award Recipients

Gary Locke
Northwest Region

After two successful terms as governor of Washington State, Gary Locke joined the Seattle office of the international law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP (DWT) as a partner. Also, he co-chairs its China practice and is active in the firm’s govern­mental relations practice. He is also the first Chinese-American Governor in the history of the United States, he led eight trade missions and opened a Washington State trade office in Guangzhou. Prior to his term as governor, Mr. Locke served as chief executive of King County. Prior to his term as King County Executive, Mr. Locke served in the Washington State House of Representatives, where he served on the House Judiciary and Appropriations Committees, with his final five years as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Before serving in the legislature, Mr. Locke worked for several years as a King County Deputy Prosecutor.

Wan J. Kim
Southeast Region

Wan J. Kim was sworn in as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice on November 9, 2005. Mr. Kim joined the Civil Rights Division in 2003 as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General. He has also served at the Department of Justice as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and as prosecutor in the Criminal Division, where he was sworn in as a Special Attorney to the Attorney General in the prosecution of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mr. Kim also worked on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee for former Chairman Orrin G. Hatch and as a law clerk to Justice James L. Buckley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Mr. Kim is the first immigrant to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, and he is the first Korean-American ever to become an Assistant Attorney General.

The Honorable Karen Gren Johnson
Southwest Region

On January 1, 2001, the Honorable Karen Johnson was sworn in as Judge of the 95th District Court of Dallas County, Texas. Prior to taking the bench, Judge Johnson had a successful civil litigation practice that spanned over 18 years as a litigation partner at two major Texas law firms. She received her B.A. from Rice University in 1979 and J.D. from Cornell University Law School in 1982. Judge Johnson serves on the Executive Committee of the Cornell Law Association, the Board of Directors of the Association of Rice University Alumni, and the Editorial Board for the Council of Litigation of the State Bar of Texas. She is a Life Fellow of both The Texas Bar Foundation and The Dallas Bar Foundation.

Yabo Lin
Central Region

Yabo Lin is the founding president of the Asian American Bar Association of Kansas City (“AABAKC”), which was officially formed in the spring of 2005. Before founding AABAKC, he was a director of the Missouri Asian Bar Association, which is based in St. Louis, Missouri. He has been a partner at the law firm, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP in Kansas City, Missouri since 2005. He practices in Sonnenschein’s Asia Pacific Practice Group (of which he is the chair) and Corporate and Securities Practice Group. Mr. Lin was a partner with the law firm of Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin, LLP in Kansas City, Missouri for eight years.

The Honorable Jacqueline H. Nguyen
California Central Region

The Honorable Jacqueline H. Nguyen was appointed by Governor Gray Davis to the Los Angeles Superior Court in August 2002. She is the only Vietnamese American judge in Los Angeles County, and the first Vietnamese American woman judge in the State of California. Born in Vietnam, Judge Nguyen came to the United States in 1975 when she was 10 years old after the fall of South Vietnam to communist forces. Judge Nguyen previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California. She joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1995 following several years in private practice at the downtown law firm of Musick, Peeler & Garrett. Prior to her appointment to the Superior Court, she served as the Deputy Chief in the General Crimes Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where she was responsible for the training of new federal prosecutors.

The Honorable Nho Trong Nguyen
California Southern Region

The Honorable Nho Trong Nguyen is a California Superior Court Judge in Orange County, and has been on the bench since his historical appointment in 2000. Judge Nguyen began his life in the U.S. as a laborer. While working he earned his M.B.A. from Pomona California Polytechnic University in 1981. He graduated from Western State University College of Law (WSU) in 1988. He began his legal career as a Deputy Public Defender of Los Angeles County that year, then a private practitioner, and a California

State Deputy Attorney General. In his native land of Vietnam, Judge Nguyen was a prominent leader in the student movement for democracy in the 1960’s. As a Congressman from 1967 to 1975, he continued to advocate for political and economic reforms in South Vietnam. As the Rapporteur of the House Committee on Agriculture, he reported and defended on the House’s Floor the historical rural land redistribution program that enabled millions of poor farmers to become landowners. He was elected by his colleagues in Congress to serve as an Associate Justice on the Constitutional Special Supreme Court. 

The Honorable Anthony W. Ishii
California Eastern Region

The Honorable Anthony W. Ishii is a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. He was appointed to the federal bench in 1997. Judge Ishii previously served as a judge on the California municipal and justice courts in Fresno County for fourteen years. Judge Ishii is the first Asian American federal district court judge appointed in the Eastern District of California. Judge Ishii earned his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of the Pacific in 1970, and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of California at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall in 1973. After graduation, Judge Ishii worked as a deputy city attorney in Sacramento, as a deputy public defender in Fresno County, and was engaged in private practice at the time of his appointment to the state court bench. Judge Ishii has served on the California Judicial Council, the Commission on the Future of the California Courts, and on the board of directors of the California Judges Foundation. He has served as the presiding judge of the Central Valley Municipal Court and as a member of the executive committee of the Fresno County Courts.

Joan M. Haratani
California Northern Region

Joan Haratani is a partner in the litigation practice in the San Francisco office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Ms. Haratani has an extensive trial and pretrial practice, with a particular emphasis on products liability and complex commercial disputes. Recently, she successfully resolved a complex trade secrets dispute on behalf of a medical device company. For the last few years, she was the lead lawyer in a high-exposure products liability case involving a food product. She was also a member of a national litigation strategy team for a Fortune 100 company. She was selected to be lead trial lawyer for a products company, and obtained a complete defense verdict after a lengthy trial for a medical device manufacturer.

For several years, Ms. Haratani co-chaired a team of lawyers in three mass tort defense actions. She currently serves as co-national counsel for an international healthcare company. She is president of the Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) and is the first female minority president of BASF in its 134-year history. She is past president of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area and past regional governor of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

Dennis Morikawa
Northeast Region

Dennis J. Morikawa is a Senior Partner in the law firm of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP which has 1200 attorneys in nineteen offices located in the United States, Europe and Asia. Mr. Morikawa was the first Asian American attorney hired by Morgan Lewis in 1974 and, in 1981, was the first Asian American ever elected to be an Equity Partner in the Firm’s history. During his more than 30 years with Morgan Lewis, he has served in varying positions of responsibility in the Firm’s management structure, including recruiting, mentoring and diversity programs which, among other things, has sought to increase and maintain minority utilization and, in particular, the hiring and retention of APA attorneys. Mr. Morikawa is a founding member of the Asian American Bar Association of the Delaware Valley (AABADV), which at that time consisted of fifteen attorneys in the Greater Philadelphia area. Mr. Morikawa served as the Association’s first president from 1984 to 1987 and helped to shape its initial charter and to develop guiding principles that sustain the organization to this day.


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