ABAWSSF President's Award Recipients
ABAWSSF is recognizing the following individuals for their leadership and service to the AANHPI community that creates a lasting legacy for generations of law students, attorneys, and judges.
Rodney L. Kawakami
Rod Kawakami obtained his law degree from the University of Washington in 1976. He has been in private practice since his graduation. He has formerly been a Pro Tem Court Commissioner for the King County Superior Court and a Judge Pro Tem for the Seattle Municipal Court. Rod has participated in numerous civil rights and other Asian American causes including serving as lead attorney from 1985 – 1988 for the Gordon Hirabayashi Coram Nobis case which overturned Mr. Hirabayashi’s 1942 convictions for violating the military curfew and exclusion orders imposed on Japanese Americans during WWII.
He also represented the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), a civil rights organization, in a discrimination lawsuit against the Washington State Democratic Party (1994 -1995) and was Lead Counsel for a team of attorneys who submitted an Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of JACL in a school busing case (1981-1982).
Early in his career, he volunteered to provide assistance to Dale Minami, lead attorney in JACL’s discrimination lawsuit against Washington State University (1978 - 1982). For over twenty years from 1976 through 1996, he participated in a community legal clinic which provided pro bono advice to individuals and community organizations. His other community activities included serving on the Board of Trustees for Renton Technical College from 1992 – 2002 and as a founding board member of the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project from 1988 through 2004.
He was also recognized as a NAPABA Daniel K. Inouye Trailblazer in 2018 for civil rights and community work.
The Honorable C. Kimi Kondo (Ret.)
Judge C. Kimi Kondo opened a general law practice in the fall of 1977 after graduating from Seattle University Law School. When her two sons were young she began Pro Tem work at Seattle Municipal Court. She was part of the first ABAW Judicial Evaluation Committee and remembers many ABAW and committee meetings in Rod Kawakami’s law office at 671 So Jackson St in the Chinatown-International District.
She was appointed to the bench in 1990 by then Mayor Norm Rice and was the first API female judge in the State of Washington. She served the people in Seattle for 28 years handling every calendar and presiding over scores of domestic violence and DUI trials. She served two rotations as Presiding Judge overseeing multi-million dollar budgets.
Active in NAPABA she organized and managed the Thomas Tang Moot Court competitions at the UW and SU law schools for about ten years. She also ran the national Thomas Tang competition for many years at various conventions throughout the country. Retired in 2019 she now spends time in Seattle and north Idaho enjoying time in the mountains.
The Honorable Dean S. Lum (Ret.)
Judge Dean S. Lum joined the Seattle Office of the Judicial Arbitration & Mediation Service (JAMS) as a private mediator in February 2022. Before then, he served for 23 years on the King County Superior Court trial bench, presiding over a wide variety of criminal and civil cases and serving in numerous state, local and national judicial, bar association and civic leadership positions. He was King County Superior Court’s Assistant Presiding Judge, Chief Criminal Judge, Chief Civil Judge and Chief Judge at the Maleng Regional Justice Center, chair of the Court’s DEI and Education Committees and faculty member for the National Judicial College, the WA Judicial College, and Seattle University School of Law.
Learn more about Judge Lum here: KCBA: Outstanding Judge Award
Benson D. Wong
Benson Wong graduated from Yale University in 1976 before getting his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He returned home to start practicing law and has been with Keller Rohrback for nearly 38 years. He advises clients in the formation and operation of businesses ranging from “mom and pop” operations to firms that employ hundreds of employees. Benson also represents clients involved in mergers and acquisitions and in connection with commercial real estate transactions. In addition, he serves as legal counsel for a number of non-profit tax-exempt organizations.
Early in his career, Benson was on the legal team that vacated the convictions of Gordon Hirabayashi for resisting the forced internment and curfew of Japanese Americans during World War II. The U.S. Supreme Court had upheld his convictions in an infamous 1943 decision. In 1987, after six years of pro bono legal work, Benson and the other members of the defense team succeeded in proving governmental misconduct and racial bias leading the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate Hirabayashi’s convictions.
Benson has held leadership roles on the boards of the King County Bar Association and the King County Bar Foundation which raises money to support legal aid programs and provide scholarships for minority law students. Benson is committed to diversifying our profession and ensuring that access to justice is available to people who cannot afford a lawyer.
Benson has served on the Mercer Island School Board Foundation and M.I. Community Fund (including president for two years in 2009-2011). After serving, Benson successfully ran for a seat on the City Council. After winning reelection to a second term, Benson was chosen by his fellow councilmembers to serve as mayor in 2020-2021, making him the first person of color to serve as mayor of Mercer Island.
Benson’s community service has been eclectic. It has involved sports, public television, education and health care. He incorporated what is now known as the Kin On Health Care Center in 1984 and then went on to serve on its board and as chair.
Outside of work and community service, family takes center stage. Benson is married to his better half Terry. They have two adult children, Brittney, and Trevor. He has two grandchildren, who keep both Terry and Benson on their toes. After 40 years of dedication to practicing law, he is retiring on at the end of this year. While he has loved practicing law and serving his community, he feels it is time to spend full-time with his family who have been with him through it all.