Fred Korematsu and His Fight For Justice
He was born in this country, but arrested for being of Japanese ancestry — and refusing to comply with military orders uprooting Japanese Americans from their homes on the West Coast and sending them to concentration camps. His fight for justice would continue for decades.
Special thanks to David Weinberg of JuryGroup
for permission to use these images
We invite everyone to learn more about Fred Korematsu and his legacy by visiting the Korematsu Institute website.
Special Note: After this reenactment was first performed in 2017, the Supreme Court decided Trump v. Hawaii, which contained a footnote overruling Korematsu v. United States. The script was updated to reflect that historic development.
JUDGE PATEL: I conclude that it is inappropriate for the Court to do anything with respect to the government’s motion other than to treat it as essentially non-opposition to the petition. . . . With respect to whether the petition should be granted, I will hear from you now, Mr. Minami.
DALE: Your Honor, we are here today to seek a measure of the justice denied to Fred Korematsu and the Japanese-American community 40 years ago. This is not just a 40-year-old misdemeanor, as the government characterizes it. This is a monumental precedent which affected deeply and irrevocably the lives of a hundred thousand Japanese Americans by sanctioning the mass banishment of a single racial minority group.
Today we know that this Supreme Court decision rests on a non-existent factual foundation. Evidence we have presented in this case underscores that assertion. . . . The government, however, is arguing, in essence, that we should put the controversy behind us, that we should, in a sense, let old wounds heal. But whose wounds need healing? The Japanese Americans who have lived with the stigma of this decision for 40 years? Or is it the wounds of guilt, of high government officials who were responsible for this great civil rights disaster?
The public interest demands more than a sterile recitation that we should let bygones be bygones and requires that the real reasons be exposed so that this tragedy will never be repeated. For those Japanese Americans interned, for those ex-internees in the audience, for Fred Korematsu and for this Court, this is the last opportunity to finally achieve the justice denied 40 years ago.
JUDGE PATEL: Thank you. Is there anything further, Mr. Minami?
DALE: If we may beg the Court’s indulgence, Mr. Korematsu would like to make a statement to the Court.
JUDGE PATEL: I will allow him to do so at this time. Mr. Korematsu?
FRED: Your Honor, I still remember 40 years ago when I was handcuffed and arrested as a criminal. . . . As an American citizen being put through this shame and embarrassment, and all Japanese-American citizens who were escorted to concentration camps suffered the same embarrassment, we can never forget this incident as long as we live. The horse stalls that we stayed in were made for horses, not human beings. . . .
According to the Supreme Court decision, being an American citizen was not enough. They say you have to look like one, otherwise they say you can’t tell the difference between a loyal and disloyal American. I thought that this decision was wrong and I still feel that way. As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without a trial or a hearing. That is if they look like the enemy of our country. Therefore, I would like to see the government admit they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen — of any race, creed, or color.
AABANY PERFORMANCE, JANUARY 30, 2019, NEW YORK COUNTY LAWYERS ASSOCIATION
Fred Korematsu and His Fight for Justice
Cadwalader, New York, NY, June 4, 2018
PERFORMANCES BY AABANY
Korematsu v. United States, NAPABA National Convention, Marriott Marquis Washington DC, November 3, 2017
Fred Korematsu and His Fight for Justice, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, New York, NY, June 4, 2018
The 2nd Annual New York City Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties, New York County Lawyers Association, New York, NY, January 30, 2019.
Robert H. Jackson Center Commemorates the 75th Anniversary of Korematsu v. United States, Robert H. Jackson Center, Jamestown, NY, May 14, 2019
Korematsu v. United States, NAPABA National Convention, JW Marriott, Austin, Texas, November 8, 2019
PERFORMANCES BY OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
Harvard Law School Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Cambridge, MA, February 2, 2019
Columbia Law School Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, New York, NY, March 6, 2019
Trial Reenactment of Korematsu v. U.S., Fordham Law School Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, New York, NY, April 3, 2019
“A Man of Quiet Bravery,” Korematsu v. United States, The Asian Pacific American Bar Association of DC (APABA-DC), Washington D.C., May 19, 2016
SABA Chicago, Jones Day, Chicago, IL, May 16, 2019
Korematsu v. United States, King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center, Hawaii, March 12, 2020