Roundable on the LA Civil Uprising | Korematsu's Coram Nobis Case

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 4:06 PM


"In May, AABA commemorated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by remembering past wrongs and the perils of injustice. A highlight was a reenactment of the trial of Minoru Yasui who challenged the constitutionality of the curfew against Japanese Americans in the wake of Executive Order 9066...As AABA continues to stand up for justice, I invite you to join us. We need members who are willing to fight for civil rights, speak out against hate crimes, and remind our leaders of the perils of injustice." --Miriam Kim, President's Message

For taxi driver, Rodney Glen King, his life changed on March 3, 1991 when he was beaten by Los Angeles Police Department officers after a high speed chase. Witness George Holliday videotaped most of the beating from his Los Angeles balcony and then sent it his video to television station KTLA.  Holliday’s video was shown not only in the United States but around the world and brought attention to police brutality and racial injustices.
On April 29, 1992, the four LAPD officers involved in the beating of King were acquitted by a Ventura County jury that stunned Los Angeles. This led to angry protests, business and school closures, citywide curfews, and much unrest.
Eumi Lee, Christy Kwon and Susie Ra, who are all of Korean descent, participated in a roundtable about this significant event. Lee is an AABA Past President and professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, Kwon is a supervising attorney at the National Labor Relations Board and co-chair of the AABA Civil Rights Committee, and Ra is a deputy public defender in Alameda County and immediate past president of the Asian American Criminal Trial Lawyers Association.  

The Honorable Delbert C. Gee has been a Judge of the Superior Court of California in Alameda County since 2002. He currently presides over a criminal collaborative court and drug court in Oakland.  
First job: My first job was working the grill at a hot dog fast food joint. The secret is to fry the hot dogs and steam the buns. My next job was maintaining landscaping on median strips in the middle of city streets in 100+ degree heat. 
What annoys you the most: hypocrisy
Describe yourself: I try to laugh out loud at least once a day.    
Hidden talent: Zumba 

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2017 AABA Law Foundation Scholarships, recently announced at the Annual Dinner. In this issue of the AABA newsletter, with Wendell Lin, winner of the AABA Law Foundation Scholarship is profiled:
Growing up in an immigrant family and being raised in a single-room-occupancy apartment in Chinatown, I was uncertain what opportunities were available to a first-generation college student. My father made a living installing carpet and my mother was a hotel housekeeper. Ever keeping her nose to the grindstone, my mom insistently worked up to the week before I was born. She still gets a good laugh every time she half-jokingly tells people she almost had to name me “Hyatt”. 

On the evening of May 16, hundreds attended one of the most powerful events of the year. At the Phillip Burton Federal Building in downtown San Francisco, the Ceremonial Courtroom was filled with attorneys, judges, professors, and students of all ages. Hosted by AABA, the Federal Bar Association, and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Lessons of the WWII Mass Incarceration of Japanese Americans provided a reenactment of the trial of jailed Japanese-American Minoru Yasui, a Q&A with Karen Korematsu and Dale Minami, and an Awards Ceremony for the 2017 Ninth Circuit High School Civics Contest.   

The event, therefore, was a reminder while that our country has made great strides in advancing civil rights – thanks in large part to the efforts of heroes like Fred Korematsu, Karen Korematsu, Minoru Yasui, and Dale Minami – there is still plenty of work yet to be done. The fight against racial injustice is now in the hands of the up-and-coming generation.   

Korematsu Legal Team
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. 

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