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Memories of hearing the verdict in Fred Korematsu's coram nobis case

I went to Fred and as we stood up to hear the court's decision I said, “Fred, Fred, this is great.” He goes, “What happened?” I said, “Fred you won. You won your case.” And he looked at me like, and he was very blank-eyed, he said, “That's good, that's really good.” And I knew he didn't quite understand yet. People came up to him, slapped him on the back. The teams were hugging each other inside the bar area, Fred was just kinda standing there as people hugged him, just, he was there woodenly, he wasn't responding 'cause he didn't quite get it yet. And he even told us that. He just didn't get it.

And it was stunning to him after all these years, after all he went through. So then we went outside and we were thronged by Nisei. I had never seen so many Nisei cry at one place and time other than funerals maybe, but these were tears of joy and they were very demonstrative, they hugged Fred, they hugged all of us. They thanked us probably more than anything.

And we... it was funny, 'cause all the team—I, standing next to 'em, I said, “You know, we're thanking you. We would never be able to do this if it weren't for you, the sacrifices you went through, what you went through to allow us to get to this point. We feel it's an honor to get to pay you back.” And it was perhaps one of the best moments you could ever have in a lifetime.


Fred Korematsu lawyers

Date: February 8, 2003

Location: Washington, US

Interviewer: Tom Ikeda, Margaret Chon

Contributed by: Denshō: The Japanese American Legacy Project.

Interviewee Bio

Sansei male. Born in Los Angeles, California on October 13, 1946, and grew up in Gardena, California. Received B.A. in Political Science from University of Southern California, graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1968. Received J.D., 1971, from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California. Mr. Minami was a co-founder of the Asian Law Caucus, Inc., a co-founder of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, the Asian Pacific Bar of California and the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans.

He was involved in significant litigation affecting civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities, including Korematsu v. United States, a lawsuit to overturn a 40 year old conviction for refusal to obey exclusion orders aimed at Japanese Americans during WWII, originally upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in landmark decisions; United Pilipinos for Affirmative Action v. California Blue Shield, the first class action employment lawsuit brought by Asian Pacific Americans on behalf of Asian Pacific Americans; Spokane JACL v. Washington State University, a class action on behalf of Asian Pacific Americans to establish an Asian American Studies program at Washington State University; and Nakanishi v. UCLA, a claim for unfair denial of tenure which resulted in the granting of tenure after widespread publicity over discrimination in academia.

Mr. Minami has taught at University of California, Berkeley and Mills College in Oakland, CA and has been a Commissioner of the State of California's Fair Employment and Housing Commission, a Commissioner on the State Bar of California, Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, the Chair of the Attorney General's Asian/Pacific Advisory Committee and a Member of Senator Barbara Boxer's Judicial Screening Committee. He was Chair of the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund Commission, appointed by President Clinton in 1994. Mr. Minami is a partner with Minami, Lew and Tamaki in San Francisco, and specializes in personal injury and entertainment law. (February 8, 2003)

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(b. 1940) Attorney, Coram nobis cases.

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Peter Irons

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(b. 1940) Attorney, Coram nobis cases.

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Chaired the Chicago JACL's Redress Committee.

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