Lieutenant Colonel Kay Wakatake works at the Pentagon for the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. She is Co-Chair of NAPABA’s Military and Veterans Affairs committee, a member of the Executive Committee of the Japanese American Veterans Association, and of the Advisory Committee to the Standing Committee of Law and National Security for the American Bar Association.
What do you remember about the first NAPABA Convention you attended?
My first NAPABA Convention was Dallas in 2004. I remember how welcoming everyone at NAPABA was to the newcomers and the students. I met new friends at that Convention whom I continue to see at successive conventions, and I look forward to the Convention each year. Sadly, I missed the last two conventions because I was deployed to Iraq in 2010, and last year I was participating in a military exchange program with Australia.
What are some of the interesting cases you have worked on as a U.S. Army Judge Advocate General attorney?
When I was deployed to Iraq, my job was to help establish the rule of law in Iraq. I met with various Iraqi judges, prosecutors, and police officers. This experience afforded me a greater appreciation of the U.S. judicial system. Iraqi judges, for example, are used to placing great weight on oral testimony, even when it is at odds with contradictory physical or forensic evidence. Because they do not have the technology, procedures, or systems in place to preserve physical evidence or examine forensic evidence, witness credibility took on much greater importance in the court’s findings. Establishing better evidence collection techniques and a secure chain of custody, among other common practices here in the United States, will help move the Iraqi judicial system into the 21st Century, and go far to enhance the fairness so important to a vital judiciary.
The U.S. Army is both downsizing and, at the same time, looking for good talent. What types of attorneys is the Army JAG Corps looking to recruit?
The Army JAG Corps wants to recruit attorneys who are well-rounded, hard-working, adaptable to various conditions, and able to communicate with a wide range of people, from the 18-year-old private straight out of high school, to a two-star general in a formal military briefing.
You are currently posted to the Pentagon. What other countries and places have you been posted to?
I spent two years near the demilitarized zone in Korea; being half Korean, I spent time with my family and ate great food. I also spent two years in Germany, a great experience because in one day, we could take a day trip to France, or a weekend trip to Switzerland or Belgium. Europe overflows with history. Near our home just outside Heidelberg, we often ate lunch next to beautiful hillside vineyards, in what had been a 16th century castle.
What DC restaurant do you recommend a Convention attendee try out?
I have a colleague who absolutely loves cupcakes, and she sometimes brings some from Georgetown Cupcakes. Be sure to get there early, or else the line could be long!
Interview by Christopher S. Lee