Since 2007, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”), led by Hon. Denny Chin of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Kathy Hirata Chin, has produced and performed a series of trial reenactments based on notable trials and cases involving Asian Americans. These dramatic programs utilized the format of a reenactment of an historic trial or appeal as an educational tool. Each reenactment was first performed by a core team of AABANY members at the annual conventions of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (“NAPABA”). The reenactments began as educational programs aimed at lawyers but due to the scope of issues and the power of each story to shed new light on forgotten chapters of American history, the influence of each trial reenactment has spread. As a testament to their relevance, the AABANY Trial Reenactments have been performed all around the country, by other bar associations, law schools and community groups.
To date there are ten Trial Reenactments:
- The Constitution in a Time of War: The Trial of Minoru Yasui (2007)
- Building Our Legacy: The Murder of Vincent Chin (2008)
- The Massie Cases: Race, Honor, and Justice In Depression-Era Hawaii (2009)
- The Trial of Tokyo Rose: United States v. Iva Toguri D’Aquino (2010)
- Race, Color, and Citizenship: Ozawa and Thind (2011)
- Heart Mountain Draft Resisters: Conscience, Loyalty and the Constitution (2012)
- 22 Lewd Chinese Women: Chy Lung v. Freeman (2013)
- Justice Denied: Wards Cove Packing v. Atonio (2014)
- The Vietnamese Fishermen and The Ku Klux Klan (2015)
- Oyama v. California (2017)
The Trial Reenactments have already garnered widespread attention and recognition. To view the coverage of the Trial Reenactments in the news, please view the In the News tab.
The result of a highly collaborative and involved research and writing process by a dedicated team of judges and lawyers, these scripts consist of original narration woven together with excerpts from transcripts of court proceedings, briefs, letters, and other original documents, accompanied by historic slides that include photographs and materials from the United States National Archives and Records and Administration. In characters ranging from Supreme Court justices to an exotic dancer at a strip club, the AABANY Trial Reenactment Team has revitalized the spirit of Asian American history by both shaping the narratives and acting the parts, with always an eye towards preserving the historical accuracy, tone, and feeling of the original documents and drawing upon the actual words of the court transcripts. We acknowledge the efforts of the original team of writers and casts for each of the Trial Reenactments and thank them for their hard work in gathering the primary materials and photographs, writing and re-writing the final scripts, and participating in the original performances.
In the words of Hon. Denny Chin, Kathy Hirata Chin, and Vincent Chang, “the AABANY dramatic team has enjoyed the opportunity to be creative and to ‘perform’ before live audiences with its final goal being to introduce a whole new generation of Asian Americans and others to these important cases.” (Quote from the Introduction of the AABANY Law Review Special Edition (2012) which collects together the first five Trial Reenactments in one volume, with annotations, available for order at http://bit.ly/lawrvwrnctmnts.)
The Trial Reenactments teach classic trial techniques and tactics, and they also raise issues that still resonate today, such as social justice, discrimination, race, citizenship, due process, civil rights, human rights, to list just a few. Through these Reenactments, we revisit — or, in some instances, visit for the first time —important cases in Asian American legal history, which still provide many lessons from which we can and need to learn.
Please use this website as an open resource but note that AABANY holds the copyright to each of the scripts. In addition to welcoming members of the general public to perform the Trial Reenactments, we also offer the original scripts as a tool for those engaging in research and educational purposes. If you are interested in obtaining copies of the original scripts, we ask that you contact us directly via the Contact tab and complete the form on that page.
To learn more about the AABANY members who were in the original casts visit the Cast page
For answers to questions about the Trial Reenactments visit the FAQ page.