The Japanese American Bar Association (JABA) announced that its 37th annual Installation and Awards Gala, titled “New Frontiers,” will feature Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender Janice Y. Fukai, and actor and community activist George Takei.

The gala will be held on Friday, Feb. 22, at the Omni Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, with a reception at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, Janice Fukai, George Takei

The keynote speaker, Hirono, became Hawaii’s first female senator, the first Asian American woman to serve in the Senate and the first immigrant woman senator when she was sworn in on Jan. 3. Born in Japan, she immigrated to Hawaii with her mother and older brother under difficult circumstances. Hirono attended the University of Hawaii before going on to graduate from Georgetown University Law Center.

She served as state deputy attorney general, served two terms as Hawaii’s lieutenant governor and was elected to represent Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006. In Congress, she has worked to help build a more sustainable food and clean energy economy for Hawaii. She is a strong advocate for Hawaii’s senior citizens, children, military families and veterans.

Fukai will be honored with this year’s Public Service Award for her contributions as the APD. She is the first Asian American woman to serve as department head in the history of the county. After receiving her bachelor’s and Juris Doctor degrees from USC, she served as a judicial law clerk for the late U.S. District Court Judge Robert M. Takasugi.

In 1980, she joined the Public Defender’s Office, where she served for 13 years until 1993, when she became chief deputy of the Alternate Public Defender’s Department. She was instrumental in the development and leadership of the Department. Fukai is the daughter of the late Mas Fukai, a long-time public servant for both the City of Gardena and Los Angeles County.

Takei will be recognized for his contributions to the community and advocacy for human rights. While he’s best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu in the “Star Trek” television series, Takei was interned as a child in Arkansas and California during World War II, and has made significant contributions to help raise awareness of the Japanese American internment.

President Clinton appointed Takei to the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, and the Japanese government awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, for his contribution to U.S.-Japanese relations. Takei, who married his husband Brad Takei at the Japanese American National Museum in 2008, is an outspoken activist for marriage equality and LGBT rights.

The JABA Gala is an annual celebration at which distinguished members in the community are honored and the JABA board is installed. Hundreds of lawyers, judges, elected officials, businesspersons, and members of the Japanese American community attend. Past speakers and honorees include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

JABA is the only Japanese American bar association in the country and one of the oldest Asian American bar associations. Platinum sponsors include Greenberg Glusker, Perkins Coie LLP, and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Individual tickets are $125. For more information, contact Jeff Ikejiri at or visit

The JABA Educational Foundation will also hold a raffle fundraiser, the proceeds of which will fund scholarships for deserving students in support of their legal education. To learn more about the Foundation or to make a donation, contact Lynn Whitcher at

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