An Opportunity to Learn About the Continuing Importance of the Korematsu Case

Karleen C. Chinen

During a visit to the University of Hawai‘i’s William S. Richardson School of Law in February 2014, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016, conceded that the World War II internment of Japanese American was “wrong.”

“Well, of course, Korematsu (Korematsu v. US) was wrong,” he said. “But,” the justice added, “you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.”

Even three years ago, “Justice Scalia envisioned a politically driven mass exclusion or segregation of Muslims in America,” said Professor Eric K. Yamamoto. Yamamoto, the Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice at the Richardson School of Law, said Scalia also intimated that when challenged, the government would rely upon the Supreme Court’s 1944 Korematsu v. US decision. Korematsu, Scalia indicated, reflects the adage that “In times of war, the laws fall silent.” Although discredited, the decision is still “standing precedent” for the forced removal and possible incarceration of an ethnic or religious group.

In light of that reality, two events commemorating the 75th anniversary of President Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 in February 1942 will address the weighty subject of “National Security and Democratic Liberties: The Continuing Import of Korematsu v. US.”

The first forum will be held Thursday, Feb. 23, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the UH Law School. It will feature Korematsu coram nobis legal team members Dale Minami (Minami Tamaki, San Francisco), Professor Lorraine Bannai (Seattle University) and Yamamoto. They will be joined by Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu and head of the San Francisco-based Korematsu Institute, and UH Richardson Scholar Advocate law students Anna Jang and Jaime Tokioka.

The second discussion will be held Friday, Feb. 24, in the Judiciary History Center in the King Kamehameha V Building (Hawai‘i Supreme Court Building) from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. It will feature an interactive roundtable question-and-answer session and reception with Minami, Bannai, Yamamoto, Korematsu and coram nobis team member from Hawai‘i, Leigh-Ann Miyasato.

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