Symposium honors Ninth Circuit Judge Tashima

The career and jurisprudence of Judge A. Wallace Tashima of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was the subject of a day-long symposium on Jan. 25, featuring present and former clerks and colleagues who celebrated the trailblazing jurist’s half century of public service and leadership.

Keynote speaker Judge Jacqueline Nguyen ’91 of the Ninth Circuit said that Tashima has been “a beacon of hope and a symbol of admiration, particularly for the Asian American legal community.”

Participants also included Judge Dolly Gee ’84 of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Judges Halim Dhanidina ’97 and Gail Ruderman Feuer of the California Court of Appeal, and Judge Elaine Lu of Los Angeles Superior Court.

As a child during World War II, Tashima was held with his family in an incarceration camp for Japanese Americans. But, Nguyen emphasized, “it’s a testament to his character that this experience did not embitter him.”

Instead, Tashima embarked on a career in public service. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, graduated from UCLA and Harvard Law School, and served in the California Department of Justice as a deputy attorney general. He was named to the Central District of California in 1980 and the Ninth Circuit in 1996, becoming the first Japanese American to sit on a federal circuit court.

That distinction seemed an impossibility, Tashima told symposium attendees, when he was in law school. Hoping to one day wear robes of his own, he would skip classes with friends to attend court proceedings in Boston. Ultimately, he said, his greatest legacy is the generations of lawyers who clerked for him at his chambers in Los Angeles and Pasadena.

Three of those former clerks — Scott Cummings, UCLA Law’s Robert Henigson Professor of Legal Ethics, and alumni Candice Yokomizo ’96 and Kaipo Matsumura ’07 — organized the conference, which featured panels about Tashima’s career as a jurist, expert in civil procedure and proponent of justice.

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