Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Lorraine Bannai Interview
Narrator: Lorraine Bannai
Interviewers: Margaret Chon (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 23 & 24, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-blorraine-01-0034

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MC: Today is March 24th, year 2000, Y2K, and we are interviewing Lorraine K. Bannai. This is the second day of taping, and the interviewers are Margaret Chon and Alice Ito. Lori, at one point during the litigation, the government decided to extend a pardon or a possible pardon to Fred, your client. Can you describe the circumstances surrounding that?

LB: The government, in Korematsu, was served with the petition alleging governmental misconduct, and immediately the government had great difficulty forming a response. They went into court and said they needed more time. They made repeated requests for extensions, and said that they could not answer the allegations in the petition. Basically, they were stalling. The attorney for the U.S. Government said that they were having a very difficult time formulating a position because it was a sensitive subject and involved high-level policymakers deciding how to appropriately respond to the case. So it was months and months, and the government continued to ask for extensions of time.

Eventually, they contacted us, and asked if Fred would be willing to accept a pardon. Again, we viewed this as an effort not to squarely address the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the petition, but a way for them to sneak out of any responsibility and end up still looking good. So they offered a pardon, and of course, our obligation as attorneys was to communicate that offer to our client. And we talked about the offer of pardon amongst ourselves first. We did some research on the issue of the effect of the pardon, and amongst ourselves, the attorneys felt quite strongly that a pardon would be unacceptable because a pardon implies that you committed a crime, and that you were guilty and you're merely being forgiven for what you did. And certainly we felt quite strongly that neither Fred nor anyone in the Japanese community had done anything that they needed to be pardoned for.

But, of course, we took this to Fred and to Kathryn, and presented it to him as a way to terminate the litigation, that it was an offer that we had to bring to him, and that the case would be over then, if he should decide to accept it. We advised him about what the pardon meant, and after a pause, Fred looked at us, and said, "Why should I accept a pardon? I should be pardoning the government." And we all were incredibly relieved that he felt that way and that he understood that the pardon would not be a victory for him. It would be a victory for the government. So we went back to the government, and we told them, "Well, Fred will not accept a pardon. In fact, he feels that he should be pardoning the government for the way they treated him." And the government took some time, and called us back and said, "Well, then what we're going to do is offer a pardon for innocence." We had never heard of a pardon for innocence. I don't know if anyone had ever heard of a pardon for innocence. But Victor Stone with the U.S. Attorney's Office said that this was a pardon that said that you were innocent. And so we did some legal research on that, trying to figure out what it was, went back to Fred, and Fred said, "No. I'm not accepting any kind of pardon at all." So we went back to the U.S. Government and flatly rejected any kind of pardon in any way, shape, or form, and knew that we wanted to proceed with the litigation so that the court could hear the allegations of governmental misconduct.

MC: That story really demonstrates Fred's resolve. Are there any other anecdotes or thoughts about Fred, working with Fred as a client that you'd like to share?

LB: He was a really wonderful client to work with. He supported us every step of the way. When we had decisions that needed to be made, we went (to) him, he listened carefully, and thought about the matter with careful consideration, and ultimately supported us in the advice that we gave him. We felt that he really was behind us, that he saw the case as, of course, being not only his case, but also a case with much wider political implications. And I think he very much trusted us as his attorneys. So one could not ask for a better client in that regard because he supported us not only in our legal decisions, but also supported us as people. As I might have mentioned before, Fred and Kathryn became very much like surrogate parents and family, and so it was a wonderful working relationship.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.