NLADA Mourns the Lost of Fred Nakamura

You are here

Release Date: 
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The National Legal aid & Defender Association joins the civil legal aid community in mourning the loss of Fred Nakamura. Mr. Nakamura died March 26, having dedicated his life and career to clients of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA). 

Nakamura was an incredible lawyer, but more than that, he understood what civil legal aid is at its heart – that justice for clients can be lifesaving, ensuring safety and stability for individual lives and communities. In recognition of his lifelong service and accomplishments, he was presented with the Kutak-Dodds Prize at NLADA’s 2022 Annual Gala. 

 “Each and every day, Fred showed all of us here at NLSLA what it means to be a community lawyer,” recalled Yvonne Mariajimenez, president & CEO of NLSLA, “we were in awe of his remarkable work and boundless compassion.”  

“Advocates like Fred Nakamura define the civil legal aid community, and all those striving for equality and justice,” noted April Frazier Camara, NLADA’s president and CEO, “he was a selfless advocate, who was so committed to our community.” 

In addition to utilizing his knowledge, skills, and position to seek legal resolutions, he was known as a fixer. Mariajimenez recalls,  

“Fred was not simply a lawyer. He fixed appliances, plumbing, and even cars. He helped vulnerable clients clean bedbug-infested apartments to avoid lease violations. And he frequently gifted items from his own home so that clients did not have to go without. He gave his cellphone number to everyone (it frequently appeared on various websites and flyers), and was often the first call for community organizers working in low-income communities throughout Los Angeles. 

“Throughout his career, Fred worked to secure fair relocation assistance for people displaced by the government, landlords and developers. He won meaningful relocation for tenants being moved to make room for an airport expansion, a freeway, and various commercial developments. Sometimes he managed to halt those developments, and to convince the government to protect—and even invest in—the low-income housing it had planned to demolish. 

“Fred understood that motels were serving as last resort housing for some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. When he heard that the owner of a motel in Palmdale—a remote city in the Antelope Valley—had issued a 48-hour notice to vacate to all the tenants, he got in his car and drove the 70 miles to see for himself. Most of the tenants had been living in the hotel for more than 30 days, meaning the notice was illegal. Fred arrived at the hotel the morning after the notices were issued. By that afternoon, after negotiating with the City Attorney, he got the notices withdrawn. In another motel in Glendale, the owner wanted to convert the building to another use and issued illegal notices to move to all of the 250-300 residents.  Fred quickly intervened and the owner withdrew the notices. 

“Fred also knew that mobile home parks are a critical component of affordable housing in Southern California, and that their closure threatened to drive people into homelessness. He became an expert in mobile home law and assisted many mobile home park communities threatened with eviction and closure. Fred’s work with two mobile home parks prevented the displacement of hundreds of families, and created a blueprint for others to follow. 

“These are but a few of countless examples. It is impossible to catalogue here all the work that Fred did, and the impact it made. We can only say that he left an indelible mark on this city and on our hearts. We will miss him terribly.” 

Fred Nakamura’s indelible mark extends beyond Los Angeles. “He inspired all of us across the country,” noted Radhika Singh, NLADA’s vice president for civil legal services and strategic policy initiatives, “and through his actions, just being who he was every day, reminded us why we do what we do, and why we keep doing what we do.” 

Our hearts go out to Nakamura’s loved ones, and NLSLA, and the countless lives that are better because of him. Fred Nakamura has left an indelible mark on this world.