The Intersection between Internment and Judgeship

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Over time, I did come to the conclusion that I definitely believe that it was wrong- the internment of the Japanese. I think that now, at least among the legal scholars, that it’s a universal opinion that it’s wrong, and that the Korematsu decision is probably one of the worst decisions the Supreme Court ever made.

So I share that belief. It was a very shameful and wrongful thing for the country to do. So I think that conviction does inform my attitude as a judge. In other words, I think I’m probably much less inclined than a lot of other judges to always trust what the government does. Sometimes it’s kind of a good thing, sometimes it’s not, but there are some people who almost believe that the government can’t do anything wrong, and of course, we know that that’s not true. So I bring that attitude to my job as a judge.

Turning it around the other way, how has my legal career affected my views on the internment? I think it’s made my views more firm that it was an injustice, and I think the same kind of attitude and the same kind of thinking pervades a lot of government thinking, and it has over the years in similar situations. So I don’t think it’s something that can be relegated to the past. I think that the same principles, same notions are at play today in a lot of different contexts. I think one of the things we are not doing is paying as much attention to our past history as we should- to inform the decisions we as a country make today. I think we can improve upon that quite a bit.

Date: July 2, 2014
Location: California, US
Interviewer: Sakura Kato
Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum; Japanese American Bar Association

incarceration internment judge korematsu law supreme court WWII

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