Three OCBA Members Selected to Receive 2024 Marcus M. Kaufman Jurisprudence Award!

2024 OCBA Board Member Nicole Whyte (Bremer, Whyte, Brown & O'Meara LLP) and OCBA Members Honorable Kirk H. Nakamura (Ret.) (JAMS) and Michael G. Ermer (Irell & Manella LLP) will be honored with the 2024 Marcus M. Kaufman Jurisprudence Award by the Anti-Defamation League.

Since 1993, the Anti-Defamation League has presented the Marcus M. Kaufman Jurisprudence Award to attorneys who make exceptional contributions not only to the legal profession, but also to the community. Jurisprudence honorees serve as role models of ethics and leadership in the legal community and embody ADL’s vision and mission "to secure justice and fair treatment to all." The award is made in the memory of Supreme Court Justice Marcus M. Kaufman, the 103rd Justice of the California Supreme Court and a champion for civil rights. The 2024 Marcus M. Kaufman Jurisprudence Awards Dinner will be held on Thursday, September 19th at 5:30PM.

Nicole Whyte, is the founder and CEO of Bremer, Whyte, Brown and O’Meara, LLP, a 215 plus attorney full service law firm with nine full service offices in the Western US. Specializing in family law and complex civil litigation, she has been identified by the Daily Journal as one of California’s top 100 women attorneys, and was selected as one of America’s top 100 attorneys. Nicole is consistently named in the lists of Best Lawyers in America and top Super Lawyers in Orange County. Born, raised, and educated in South Africa, Nicole practiced as an attorney in Johannesburg before immigrating to the United States at age 25. After quickly learning the US legal system, Nicole embarked on her American legal career and in 1997, she and partner Keith Bremer founded Bremer Whyte. Nicole is licensed in multiple states, has a two-decade plus AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, and is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California. Nicole is a well respected trial attorney in the civil and family courts, and an accomplished appellate attorney, having argued and won an appeal upholding a $93 million judgment in favor of her client. She is a sought after speaker at legal conferences across the United States and internationally, and a published author in the areas of family law and trial advocacy. She has been recognized for excellence in her ethics and professionalism. Nicole has focused her entire legal career on giving back to the community and supporting the ideals of justice, equity, and fair treatment for all. She is a long standing board member and past President of the Public Law Center, where she has donated hundreds of hours of service to the board and Pro Bono clients. She is a member of the Sonenshine Pro Bono committee, and serves as a board member of the Orange County Bar Association, and its Pro Bono committee. As a distinguished female founder and leader of one of the largest law firms based in Orange County, Nicole leads by example, encouraging lawyers in her firm to volunteer their time. Nicole prides herself on hiring diverse lawyers from all backgrounds and demographics, creating opportunities for many. The growth of her firm has been organic, and many lawyers at the firm began their careers as clerks at the firm. Through her example, Nicole has paved the way for those seeking to follow in her footsteps. Happily married for 25 years, mother to 4 children, and a practicing black belt in kenpo karate, she has shown it is possible to successfully balance family, career, hobbies, and community/volunteer work.

Hon. Kirk H. Nakamura (Ret.) has joined JAMS as a neutral after a distinguished career spanning 41 years. Judge Nakamura served two decades as a judge of the Orange County Superior Court, including an assignment on the Complex Civil Litigation Panel, and presided over 300 jury trials during his tenure. These included some of the court’s most high-profile cases, including those involving the late Kobe Bryant, Snoop Dogg, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from the MTV reality show “Jersey Shore,” the wrongful death case of homeless, mentally ill man Kelly Thomas, judicial benefits (Sturgeon III) and Don (Marie) Callender’s estate. Judge Nakamura served as the presiding judge for the nation’s seventh-largest court (144 judicial officers and 1,500 employees) during 2019 and 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he personally came in to the courthouse every workday from March to late November 2020, leading the court in safely conducting 200 in-person jury trials and signing 40 administrative orders without a single criminal case dismissal for violating a criminal defendant’s speedy trial rights. Judge Nakamura was a civil litigator for 21 years before taking the bench, handling complex civil litigation,including multi-party land subsidence; construction defect litigation; asbestos litigation; catastrophic multi-party cases; governmental entity litigation, including inverse condemnation; and police misconduct andinverse condemnation cases, including extensive appellate work. He has handled a wide range of personal injury cases, including medical malpractice and auto accident litigation. He has extensive experience in insurance litigation, including coverage and bad faith disputes. Judge Nakamura’s leadership and dedication to the rule of law have been repeatedly recognized at the national, state and local levels. He has received the Trailblazer Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and served on the Executive Committee of the National Association for Presiding Judges and Court Executive Officers. Judge Nakamura was elected president of the California Asian – Pacific American Judges Association and has served on the State Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee and the Executive Board of the California Judges Association. He was elected president of the Orange County Japanese American Lawyers Association as well as president of the Orange County Asian American Bar Association. Locally, Judge Nakamura received awards from the Japanese American Bar Association of Los Angeles, the Orange County Bar Association (OCBA), Orange County Constitutional Rights Foundation, Orange County American Board of Trial Advocates, Orange County Trial Lawyers Association and Orange County Asian American Bar Association. In addition to being recognized, Judge Nakamura continuously lends a hand to initiatives striving to support the Japanese American Community in Orange County. Highlights from these initiatives include, heading the effort to rename the West Justice Center after Justice Stephen K. Tamura and authoringnumerous articles on both the Supreme Court’s decisions on the Japanese American Internment as wellas the recent rise in Asian hate crimes. Judge Nakamura was also chosen to speak at the Federal Court’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 with Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, and at a Memorial Day service for Sergeant Kazuo Masuda. Judge Nakamura has a long history of supporting alternative dispute programs. He was the OCBA co-chair of the ADR Committee. He acted as chair of the superior court’s Temporary Judge Committee. He was co-founder of the court’s Foreclosure Relief Settlement Program during the 2008 foreclosure crisis. He expanded the use of temporary judges to assist in settlement conferences to address the backlogduring the pandemic. He was also on a statewide subcommittee exploring the expanded use of new technology to perform remote settlement hearings..

Michael G. Ermer is a Partner Emeritus at Irell & Manella LLP who focuses on complex business cases, including intellectual property litigation, trade secret litigation, insurance coverage litigation, and securities litigation. He has previously served as managing partner of the firm's Newport Beach office. Michael has also assisted in the mediation of several types of cases, including patent infringement cases. One of Michael’s greatest joys over the years has been mentoring and supporting younger attorneys. A native of St. Louis, Michael obtained his B.A. degree from Washington University in 1979, and he graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1983. He then joined the very young Newport Beach office of Irell & Manella. In addition to his work for paying clients, Michael maintains an active pro bono practice and currently serves as chair of the firm's Pro Bono Committee. Under his leadership, Irell revamped its pro bono program, resulting in a dramatic increase in pro bono hours and lawyer participation and numerous awards, including the 2013 California State Bar President's Pro Bono Award, among others. Michael is also an emeritus board member of Public Law Center, having served as board president in 2018. In 2023, the University of California, Irvine School of Law recognized Michael’s commitment to pro bono service by naming its program The Michael G. Ermer Pro Bono Program. Michael has also been an active member of the Orange County legal community for many years. He is a member of the Board of Visitors for UCI Law School. He is also a member of the Orange County Bar Association Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.