April 20, 2009

Yesterday, on a sunny spring day in Seattle I attended the launch event for the new Seattle University Law School’s Fred Korematsu Center for Law and Equality. I have very high hopes for this new center based on the quality of the event, the people attending, and the people organizing. The event was an all day conference examining the historic coram nobis cases, their present day relevance, and how the new center could work with advocacy groups.
What made this conference really special was the quality of the presentations. For example, the first panel was extraordinary in its perspectives and insights as it gave an engaging overview of the 1980s coram nobis cases that vacated (overturned) the WWII convictions of Fred Korematsu, Min Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi. Professor Roger Daniels started the panel with a thoughtful historic perspective of the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans. SU Professor Lorraine Bannai, one of the lawyers from the Korematsu coram nobis team gave a clear and concise overview of the three cases.

Professor Peter Irons gave a personal and often humorous accounting of the many “chance” events that led to winning the cases. Dale Minami, lead counsel of the Korematsu team talked about how a group that “looked like a bunch of teenagers” came together with a well-thought out strategy and formed three pro bono legal teams in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. Peggy Nagae, lead counsel of the Min Yasui coram nobis legal team talked about the “case of a lifetime” in being able to work with and represent Min Yasui. Rod Kawakami, lead counsel of the Gordon Hirabayashi coram nobis legal team talked about the teamwork needed as they were the only team that had to prepare for a full trial. and then when the trials were complete, Gordon Hirabayashi being happy that they won but also disappointed that they didn’t lose so they could appeal and go to the Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

I am excited about this new center in Seattle and look forward to working with them. Kudos to founding director Professor Bob Chang and assistant director Professor Lorraine Bannai for a great start!