Colorado civil rights attorney Minoru Yasui had many challenges throughout his life, but he continued to persevere.
Whether it was Yasui, a Japanese-American, being sent to internment camp during World War II or being convicted after testing travel restrictions on those with Japanese ancestry during the same time period, he always fought on. He eventually got the conviction vacated.
Due to that lasting legacy, Yasui has been honored multiple times including with the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama and having an American Inn of Court named after him in Denver.
There are Inns of Court throughout the U.S. that are associated with the national outlet and its mission focused on practicing professionalism in the law. There are eight Inns of Court in Colorado, according to the AIC, with most based in Denver like the one named after Minoru Yasui.
These Inns of Court hold regular meetings of lawyers, judges and others in the legal profession with the goal of building and strengthening professional relationships, sharing experiences and advice and advancing high levels of ethics, according to the national AIC’s website.
The Minoru Yasui American Inn of Court was founded in 1996 with the aim of contributing to the Denver community in a positive way like Yasui did.
Family law practitioner Courtney McConomy, the president-elect of the organization and a shareholder at Sherr Puttmann Akins Lamb, has been a member since she was a law student.
“The culture of our inn is one that values diversity and inclusion and really has from day one,” McConomy said. “There was this great respect for Minoru Yasui in all he did … as it relates to his advocacy … as a lawyer in civil rights and we felt like he was really someone who was standing up for everything we believe in.”
McConomy said the inn tries to include diversity and inclusion in all it does. That includes offering continuing education opportunities, trivia and meetings.
“We don’t have a very strong emphasis on having specific requirements for programs,” McConomy said. “I also think that the culture of each inn is different and our inn has a pretty rich culture. We have people from the Colorado Supreme Court [and] the Court of Appeals. We have attorneys that practice [in] tons of different areas of law and we have many student members.”
The Minoru Yasui Inn also has small groups and within each one members are at different points of their careers.
“What that does is that creates a small group of people that come from all walks of life in the legal field and … creates a small unified group that captures the different levels of experience,” McConomy said.
Mentorship is also promoted in the Minoru Yasui Inn. For example, some of the judges have opened up their chambers for brown bag lunches where student members can meet with them.
Charity is another big aspect for the organization. More recently, it donated hygiene products during the holidays. In the past, members have donated computers to a learning center in Myanmar and collected donations for the 2013 Colorado flood victims.
As for the future of the Minoru Yasui Inn, McConomy said it wants to continue to promote the values Yasui lived by.
“Coming out of a global pandemic, it is my hope that our members will continue to come out and see the value in getting together on a professional level and breaking bread,” McConomy said. “We work in [a] sometimes very adversary profession and people don’t always recognize the importance of sitting across the table from other attorneys and having casual, friendly conversations that are not fueled by cases. … Sometimes it’s really important to recognize you’re in a profession with other humans.”
The organization takes the summers off and meets monthly at the University of Denver’s campus. If you are interested in becoming a member, click here. Currently, they have more than 100 members.