First Japanese American Judge in New York State Selected to Go to Tokyo and Fukuoka Prefecture to Meet with Top Japanese Officials

NEW YORK – Toko Serita, Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice, will travel to Japan from March 7 to 15 on the 2014 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program, which brings ten prominent Japanese Americans to Japan for a week-long trip dedicated to building people-to-people connections with Japanese leaders. In its 14th year, JALD provides opportunities for Japanese Americans to establish a meaningful role in strengthening U.S.-Japan relations across all sectors of society.

Judge Serita and the other delegates will visit Fukuoka in the Kyushu region, an economically and culturally dynamic prefecture where many Japanese Americans have their ancestral roots. They will also participate in a panel discussion sponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC). The delegates will then visit Tokyo, where past delegations have typically met with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and top business executives, among others. 

Judge Serita was born in Sapporo, Japan and raised in New York City. She has been on the bench since 2005 and was recently appointed as an Acting Supreme Court Justice in Queens County, New York. She is the first Japanese American Judge in New York State. Judge Serita is a leading judicial expert on human trafficking and currently presides over the Human Trafficking Intervention Court (HTIC), which deals with domestic and foreign victims of sex trafficking, as well as overseeing the drug and mental health treatment courts in Queens Criminal Court. She is a member of numerous professional associations, including the Asian American Bar Association of New York, the National Association of Women Judges and New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts. She holds a B.A. from Vassar College and a J.D. from CUNY Law School at Queens College.

“I came to the United States as the five-year-old daughter of two artists from Sapporo, and while I have spent most of my life in New York, I have nevertheless maintained close ties to my native country, which I often visit, as my parents returned to Hokkaido many years ago and all my relatives reside here,” Judge Serita said. “Despite my familiarity with Japan, this trip presents a rare opportunity to experience a slice of Japanese society and culture that is not available to most Japanese Americans.  I am hoping that this experience will enable me to gain a better understanding of Japanese politics and the legal system, and to find ways upon my return to broaden communication between the judicial systems in the U.S. and Japan.”

The delegates come from across the country and are active in their communities, engaged in U.S.-Japan relations and committed to deepening ties between Japanese Americans and Japan. USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye will lead the delegation. The program is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and organized by USJC.

** Judge Serita is available to comment before, during and after her trip to Japan. Contact USJC Communications Manager Shiori Okazaki at sokazaki@usjapancouncil.org or 202-223-6843 to arrange an interview. For more information and biographies of all ten delegates visit: www.usjapancouncil.org/programs/program/JALD

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