Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Minoru Yasui challenged the exclusion orders or curfew with cases that reached the Supreme Court in the 1940’s. Thirty five years ago, in 1982, legal scholar Peter Irons uncovered evidence showing that the government had presented false charges of Japanese American disloyalty and espionage. This led Korematsu, Hirabayashi and Yasui to petition for a writ of coram nobis, seeking to vacate their federal convictions.
A group of AABA members and other lawyers led by Dale Minami represented Korematsu in his coram nobis petition. Other core members of the Korematsu legal team included Don Tamaki, Karen Kai, Judge Dennis Hayashi, Judge Edward Chen, Lorraine Bannai, Robert Rusky, Eric Yamamoto, Leigh-Ann Miyasato and Donna Komure. We asked members of the legal team to share their reflections on the historic Korematsu case. Here are excerpts of reflections from Dale Minami and Don Tamaki:
What significance, if any, do you think the Korematsu case has had on American citizens in asserting their constitutional rights?
Dale Minami: The case, the Redress movement, the repudiation of the imprisonment by 5 Presidents explicitly or implicitly, the confession of error by the Acting Solicitor General has led to significant public education about the dangers of targeting and scapegoating marginalized groups. While there is much to be done, I think it has ameliorated and moderated the possible malicious actions against other minority groups, specifically Muslims and Arab Americans. Korematsu is raised as a cautionary tale every time an entire group is demonized so the press and the judiciary has understood and commented on the great injustice of the Japanese American incarceration.