From left: Peter Rho of Buchalter; SEC Commissioner Mark Uyeda; L.A. Superior Court Judge Sabina Helton; Deputy Consul General Naoshige Aoshima, Los Angeles Consulate General of Japan; JABA President Harumi Hata of Buchalter; and Masa Mitsunaga of Buchalter.

On Jan. 26, the Japanese American Bar Association’s (JABA) Shin-Issei/Japanese Lawyers Group and Business Lawyers Group co-hosted a reception honoring Securities and Exchange Commissioner Mark Uyeda, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge and JABA Past President Sabina Helton, and Deputy Consul General Naoshige Aoshima at the Los Angeles office of Buchalter. 

Also attending were Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge and JABA Past President Audra Mori, who was recently nominated by Gov. Gavin Newsom for confirmation as a justice of the Court of Appeal, and William Fujioka, former Los Angeles County chief executive officer and Los Angeles City chief administrative officer.  

The event was led by incoming JABA President Harumi Hata, who is a Buchalter shareholder; incoming JABA President-elect Colin Kawaguchi; and JABA’s Business Lawyers Group co-chairs and past presidents Eric Nishizawa and Ken Tanaka. 

SEC Commissioner Mark Uyeda, Darlene Kuba and Bill Fujioka.

Nearly 70 lawyers from Japan and the U.S. attended, including past JABA board member Jason Wilson. Deputy Consul General Aoshima, Judge Helton, and Commissioner Uyeda each gave meaningful remarks at the event.

Hata stated, “JABA has been holding these networking receptions in recent years to foster stronger bonds and ties between our members and the Japanese lawyers and professionals who attend LL.M. (Master of Laws) programs at U.S. law schools. We feature special guests of honor at the events, and the Jan. 26 event was so extremely special with the distinguished guests in presence . . . a professionally and personally enriching opportunity to meet and speak with them, together with the attendees. 

“We are proud and grateful that the guests and the attendees reflect the breadth of our Japanese American community of which JABA has been a part for so many years.”

Kawaguchi added, “My experience with JABA has been an amazing journey surrounded by mentors, friends, and distinguished attorneys spanning many generations. The richness of this association was in full display at our event, and I felt blessed to be a part of such a strong community.”

Eric Nishizawa and SEC Commissioner Mark Uyeda.

Uyeda is a past vice president of JABA and a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association in Washington, D.C. He is the first Asian Pacific American to serve on the Securities and Exchange Commission and the first non-judiciary JABA member to be appointed to a U.S. Senate-confirmed position. He graduated from Duke Law School and began practice in Los Angeles at O’Melveny & Myers. 

In 2004, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recognized his achievements and leadership by appointing him to the Japanese American Leadership Delegation. Subsequently, Uyeda became chief advisor to the commissioner of the California Department of Corporations, which is now the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. After that, Uyeda practiced at K&L Gates in Washington, D.C. and later became special counsel to SEC Chairman Paul Atkins and to Acting Chairman Michael Piwowar.

Uyeda then moved to the SEC’s Division of Investment Management, where he served as assistant director and special counsel. The SEC later detailed him as securities counsel to the minority’s staff of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Uyeda was nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate in 2022.

Helton, who was born in Japan, co-founded JABA’s Shin-Issei/Japanese Lawyers Group. She graduated from Hastings Law School and began practice at Pillsbury Madison & Sutro. She is fluent in Japanese, has represented Japanese clients in litigation in the U.S., and, just before leaving for the bench, led the Japan Practice Group at Buchalter. Helton was appointed to the bench by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018.  

Judge Mori graduated from Cornell Law School and began practice at Brobeck Phleger & Harrison. She left practice to clerk for Richard W. Goldberg of the U.S. Court of International Trade. Before she was appointed to the bench by Gov. Brown in 2018, she was a partner at Perkins Coie, where she practiced copyright, trademark, and general commercial litigation, and was named managing partner in 2017.

JABA was founded over 45 years ago by a group of Japanese American lawyers who wanted to create a mutually supportive network, particularly for those who sought appointment as judges. Today, JABA has over 350 members, with strong presence in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego, as well as in Chicago.

Over the years, JABA has hosted events with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, Army Chief of Staff General (ret) Eric K. Shinseki, and other nationally recognized dignitaries. JABA appreciates that its past leaders continue to provide strong support to its current work and mission and its members.

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