Garrick Lew remembered as legal pioneer

San Francisco defense attorney Garrick Lew passed away this weekend, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Monday.

Lew, a prominent defense attorney and co-founder of the Asian Law Caucus, passed away Saturday, according to Adachi.

Adachi, who clerked for Lew in the 1980s and worked with him on continuing education materials for attorneys, described Lew as a:

“… mentor and hero to so many public defenders and criminal defense attorneys. … Without his mentorship and guidance, I would have never been able to realize my dream of becoming a public defender.”

Adachi added:

“He was an activist lawyer who never shied away from representing a client who needed him, and was always there to support communities in need.”

Chris Punongbayan, executive director of the Asian Law Caucus, a civil rights organization, said Lew helped incorporate the group, find funding and bring in some of the first big cases the group worked on relating to police accountability:

“He really infused within us the spirit of fighting for progressive causes and empowering the community so we are very saddened by the news of his passing and very grateful for everything he’s done.”

Born in Oakland and educated at the University of California at Berkeley and Boalt Hall of Law, Lew was a founding partner at the law firm of Minami, Lew and Tamaki from 1974 until 2006, when he left to start his own practice.

The Asian Law Caucus established a fund for donations in Lew’s honor last year when he became ill.