"Sandra was a dear friend to the Asian American community. She
instinctively cared about fairness and justice in issues affecting our
community," says JACL Midwest Regional Director William Yoshino in a
statement. "The high regard in which Sandra was held, the strong voice
she provided and the good deeds she accomplished did much to advance
the cause of all Asian Americans."
Otaka had initially
worked as an attorney for Sidley Austin in the late 1980s. Prior to
her appointment as a Cook County judge in 2000 she had spent years as section chief for the EPA, where she won the "Woman Who Put Their Stamp
On the EPA" award. She was known for "championing fundamental fairness"
and advocating causes she believed in, according to a 2002 Chicago Reporter
profile. She is survived by her sister, Susan Smith, and her biological
nephew, Jeffrey, whom she adopted and raised as her own following her
More can be read about Sandra Otaka in the Chicago Tribune obituary here.