JABA honored its past and celebrated its future at its Installation and Awards Gala on March 9, 2012 at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles. The sold-out event – featuring Justice Sabrina McKenna from the Hawaii Supreme Court, Congressman Adam Schiff of Los Angeles, and celebrity Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto – was attended by nearly 600 lawyers, judges, law students, and community members.
Justice McKenna gave an inspiring keynote speech about her experience overcoming setbacks to become a Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court. Born and raised in Japan by a single mother, Justice McKenna attended the University of Hawaii on a basketball scholarship and graduated from the UH School of Law. In late 1993, she was appointed to the state District Court, and in 1995, to the Circuit Court, before serving as Senior Judge of the Family Court of the First Circuit. Justice McKenna never waivered in her commitment to public service despite being passed over for judicial positions before she was elevated to the Supreme Court.
As Hawaii’s first openly gay Justice, Justice McKenna related some of the challenges faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) youth and the importance of acceptance by their parents. Justice McKenna, who has three school aged children with her partner, said: “It is important for people like me to be public, not only to provide inspiration for GLBT youth, but also to let their parents see that there are thriving members of the community who happen to be GLBT.”
Congressman Adam Schiff, the son of a World War II vet, received JABA’s Public Service Award for his efforts to introduce successful legislation honoring Veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service with the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. He commended the war heroes, some who were in attendance at the Gala to support the Congressman.
JABA also presented Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto with its Community Service Award for his humanitarian efforts on behalf of Japan earthquake and tsunami victims. He entertained the audience with a rousing karaoke song in Japanese. The Iron Chef later sent a message to JABA members saying, “It is important that each person contributes to society in their own way” and urged everyone to help those in trouble.
The JABA Educational Foundation (JEF) provided scholarships to four law students: Karyn Ihara from Loyola, Amy Inagaki from USC, Tim Shimizu from UCLA, and Lisa Foutch from USC. JEF also conducted a silent auction and raffle which raised thousands of dollars for scholarships.
JABA President Audra Mori specially thanked JABA members who have pursued public service – in particular the lawyers from the City Attorney, District Attorney, Public Defender, Alternate Public Defender, the Attorney General, and U.S. Attorney offices and the judicial officers who are among JABA’s most steadfast members and supporters.
For pictures of the Gala, click here.