HELEN M. GEISNESS AWARD: Sharon Sakamoto
By James A. Andrus
This year, the King County Bar Association proudly presents the Helen M. Geisness Award to Sharon K. Sakamoto. "She is an outstanding lawyer, a generous and effective leader and an absolutely lovely human being," said UW Law School Dean Kellye Testy.
This award is presented on an occasional basis to recognize an outstanding lawyer or non-lawyer for exemplary distinguished service on behalf of the King County Bar Association. Sakamoto has generously and enthusiastically served KCBA in an exemplary manner consistent with KCBA's grandest traditions.
She has served as a member of the Board of Trustees, as a member and chair of the Judicial Screening Committee, as a member of the Awards Committee, and as a chair and a 25-year member of the Ethnic Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee. In these capacities, Sakamoto has had direct positive influence on the education and development of numerous lawyers in King County.
Sakamoto has come a long way since she was born during World War II in the Minidoka Internment Camp in Idaho. Because of her experience, she has devoted her life to justice and equality, and has held the torch of liberty high so that others may have the opportunity to live the American promise that she was so harshly shuttered away from.
Sakamoto began her professional career as an educator in the Seattle Public Schools. In 1981, she elected to change careers and enrolled in law school. While still in law school, she began work with the legal team representing Gordon Hirabayashi, an American convicted of violating military evacuation and curfew orders during World War II. In fighting to restore his honor, the Hirabayashi coram nobis team discovered documents proving that the evacuation and curfew orders were not based on military necessity, and the government had hidden this evidence at his trial. After a six-year fight, the team was successful in getting the Ninth Circuit to find that Hirabayashi's convictions should be vacated.
During Sakamoto's legal career, she has been a champion for what is right. Having firsthand knowledge of the destruction that unchecked power might do to the powerless, she has been a champion for justice, opportunity and equality.
Her legal practice has encompassed a variety of areas, including estate planning, probate and guardianship matters, property transfers, business organizations and transactions, and municipal bond financing. Sakamoto has served on the boards of the Seattle University School of Law Alumni Association, the Board of the Archdiocese of Seattle Catholic Schools, the Kawabe Memorial House (an affordable apartment building that is home primarily to first-generation immigrant seniors), the Center for Human Services, and the Chief Seattle Council, among others.
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