For more than six years, Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Jim Tanizaki has successfully prosecuted cases involving arson, police and government misconduct and a variety of other crimes.
"In this job, you see that there is a lot of pain being inflicted by criminals out in the community," Tanizaki said. "There is so much suffering through these crimes, and they have such an effect on people's lives."
Since 1985, Tanizaki has worked on more than 50 trials and, he said, has repeatedly seen "the darker side of humanity."
Nevertheless, Tanizaki said, he wouldn't change careers.
"The job and the people I have worked with in the district attorney's office have been tremendous," he said. "Becoming a prosecutor was one of the best career decisions I could have made. I've grown as a human being and as a lawyer."
After graduating from Georgetown University's prestigious law school, Tanizaki returned to Gardena, where he had grown up, and started his own general law practice, in which he handled everything from criminal and civil cases to estate planning.
But his greatest desire was to become a prosecutor, so he applied to the Orange County district attorney's office.
"I had done criminal work from the defense side before, and I saw how prosecutors worked," he said. "I liked what I saw. I'm kind of a law-and-order type person, and I respected the work they did and the responsibilities."
Tanizaki began his stint in Orange County in Juvenile Court, working on cases that ranged from theft to murder. Eventually, he was transferred to the office's special assignment unit as one of seven deputy district attorneys.
The job, he said, is often extremely stressful.
"The highest stress comes when you're in trial. You're in court all day, and your nights are consumed with reviewing what's happened and what has to be done the following day," said Tanizaki, 36. Despite his experience as a prosecutor, he said, "I still have so much to learn."
"The legal challenges, the legal questions posed, the challenge of the trials and the ability to promote justice is a heavy responsibility. You can't always go for convictions when a complaint is brought before you. Sometimes you have to reject cases for one reason or another," he said.
Tanizaki, who was born in Japan and moved to Southern California at age 5, credits his parents for his professional success.
"I owe everything to my parents' encouragement and sacrifices," he said. "Whether you're white, black, Hispanic or American Indian, if you have parents who love you, care about you and encourage you to excel, you have a real good opportunity to do well."