IGarrick died on March 19, 2016. He was a good and decent man, and he was my friend.
Damn, that just took me several minutes to type out the last sentence. I kept stumbling on the word was, getting caught up on the idea that writing it felt like Garrick and I stopped being friends for some reason. That was the first time I’ve said was in that context, and it feels awkward. For ten years, if somebody asked me about Garrick, I’d say, “He is a friend.”
Until March 19, I’m not sure anyone has ever uttered the phrase “Garrick was my friend.” He was just that kind of guy. A hardworking fighter for the underdog and an absolute riot at parties. He was good-natured, good-humored, and decent to the core. He had an impact on everyone in his life and certainly on me.
I’m going to do another post for him, but I can’t write anymore just now.
I will leave you with the memorial piece written by his close friend and former law partner Dale Minami and posted by the leading Asian American civil rights organization he helped start.
What many do not know about is Garrick’s indispensable role in helping to create the Asian Law Caucus in 1972 and his critical part in its survival. He became involved in 1971 when he applied, and was accepted to, Boalt Hall. There, he learned about this new, radical legal organization fighting for the rights of API’s. During the summer of 1972, he gave up his summer grants to work full time on the establishment of what was then the Asian Law Caucus. He found the original office on Park Boulevard in Oakland, secured donated furniture from Kaiser and other unknown places (don’t ask where), built the brick and board bookshelves and recruited volunteers.
Garrick then convinced a friend to help with the incorporation papers on a pro bono basis. He also created one of the first sliding scale fee and legal assistance programs for API organizations in the country. He even filed the incorporation papers personally in Sacramento and recruited many of the original Board members. As a fledgling group, we had no reputation, money or cache so he persuaded one of his friends to write an article about Asian Law Caucus in East-West, the local API newspaper which generated positive reviews for us and established our credibility. Garrick also brought in one of our first clients, Barry Chan, who was arrested and roughed up in Chinatown which led to the filing of a massive lawsuit against San Francisco Police. We were paid a fee which allowed us to survive, literally.
He was never paid a dime for his work except for occasional free roast pork sandwiches from the HofBrau on Grand Avenue. I am absolutely certain that without Garrick, there would be no Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus today.
Here is his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Renowned attorney and community activist Garrick Sherman Lew passed away on Friday, March 19, 2016, due to complications arising from his treatment for cancer. He will be remembered as a skillful and talented attorney, a tireless advocate in the fight for social justice and equality, an icon in the Asian American community, a devoted husband to his wife, Diane Hiura, a loving and engaged father to his two sons, Dillon and Brandon, and an indispensable friend to those who knew him.
Garrick, the first of three children, was born on July 25, 1950, in Oakland, Calif., to parents Share and Jennie Lew. A product of the Oakland public schools, Garrick received his B.A. with honors from University of California, Berkeley in 1971, and his J.D. from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 1974. From his first years as a student at Cal, he fought for the establishment of an ethnic studies program, demonstrated in the Third World Strike, and helped establish youth organizations in Oakland’s Chinatown.
Throughout his legal career, Garrick was an ardent champion of civil rights and social justice, and a staunch defender of those unable to defend themselves. As a fearless young lawyer, he represented Wendy Yoshimura, the fugitive who was caught with Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army. He was also part of the legal team fighting the eviction of tenants from the International Hotel, and provided pro bono services to demonstrators arrested in anti-Vietnam war protests.
It was out of this sense of justice and pride in his heritage as an Asian American that he helped establish the Asian Law Caucus while still a law student. Garrick later co-founded Minami, Tomine and Lew, one of the first Asian American law firms in the country. The firm became Minami Lew & Tamaki, and then Minami Tamaki when Garrick started his own practice in 2006.
In his 42 years of practicing law, Garrick specialized in criminal defense trial work with a focus on complex white-collar cases, but he also served on the federal court’s Criminal Justice Panel for 30 years, handling hundreds of cases for indigent clients. In a testament to his belief that every person charged with a crime deserved representation, he served as the defense attorney for notorious serial killer, Charles Ng.
Garrick received numerous honors, awards, and recognitions for his professional accomplishments. He was also one of the funniest people alive, sometimes unintentionally. Throughout his life, Garrick stayed true to the principles that guided his life: advancing justice, fighting for the underdog, mentoring young attorneys, and being fiercely loyal to family and friends. He will be greatly missed.
Garrick is survived by his wife Diane Hiura, sons Dillon and Brandon, father Share, sister Sherene, and brother Rictor and Rictor’s wife Patty.
The Lew Family requests that any donations in Garrick’s honor be made to either a college fund for Garrick’s son Brandon, or to the Garrick S. Lew Legacy Fund at the Minami Tamaki Yamauchi Kwok & Lee Foundation.
Visit http://GarrickLew.org for more information.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Mar. 27, 2016