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-01-0039

<Begin Segment 39>

MC: Can you describe what you did in terms of legal practice after you worked with the coram nobis team?

LB: I continued working with my law firm. It was Minami, Tomine and Lew, and then became Minami and Lew, and Minami, Lew, and Tamaki. It went through many changes. Doing general civil litigation work in the Oakland and San Francisco area. Certainly the firm continued to be involved in community legal work, in civil rights issues, particularly issues relating to the Asian American community. So it was a really wonderful practice in that regard, to be able to carry on a private practice, but also do socially relevant work. At the same time I was practicing law, I taught at law school at night, various law schools in the San Francisco Bay area, and finally in 1988, decided that it was too difficult to do two jobs, and that my, I really wanted to go into full-time teaching. So since 1988, I've been in full-time teaching.

MC: In addition to the teaching, what other political or community activities have you been involved with since the litigation?

LB: I've tried to be involved in various community organizations in the San Francisco Bay area, and I was on the board of the Northern California ACLU, the JACL board, Asian Women's Health Center board, various organizations where I could bring some type of energy to help an agency that's trying to help other people. I've tried to volunteer with legal advice or legal services when I've had the opportunity to do so. So various different activities. I've had two children in the last few years, so certainly many of those activities have curtailed as I've focused my energy on raising them.

MC: And now you're teaching at Seattle University School of Law. Are you, when you teach your law students today, I know you've talked about this a little bit before, but do you ever mention examples from when you were involved in this coram nobis litigation to them?

LB: Uh-huh. Certainly when the occasion arises, I will talk with them about the case, particularly from, on the vein that I mentioned earlier, that it is important to be a good lawyer in what you do, that one can have the best case in the world, but if you are not skilled at being a lawyer, it doesn't really matter. Fortunately, I've had occasion at the law school to talk about my work on the case in various classes, and it's been really gratifying, because a number of students come up afterwards and just say, "I wish I had the opportunity to work on a case like that, and it's just so great that you had that opportunity." To the extent that this experience will speak to some of these other students who want to do public interest work, certainly I'm really happy to share the experience. And I'm glad that, that students can use this case as a living example of the kind of work that lawyers can do.

MC: You mentioned earlier that you have two children. Have you talked with them at all about your experiences?

LB: I haven't talked to them about my work on the Korematsu case. They're five and seven right now. But I have (told) them, number one, that I'm a lawyer, and what lawyers do. And I've talked to them, number two, about the internment, and about how at one point in time, because of a failure in our country, their grandparents and great-grandparents were interned in camps. Certainly they don't have any great understanding of what caused the internment, but they do have an understanding that some people are prejudiced against other people because of the color of their skin. I'm amazed at what the public schools are doing right now with regard to teaching issues of tolerance. They learn this all the time in school. They learn about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and what he stood for. So when I talk to my children about prejudice and tolerance and understanding, trying to understand people who are different from them, they very much understand what I'm talking about, and I think that's certainly in large part because the schools have themselves become very much involved in teaching tolerance. I want my children very much to understand what happened during the internment, and that they have a real active role and a responsibility to make sure that things like that don't happen again, and certainly I hope that they get that message.

MC: I think we're done. Thank you very much.

AI: Thank you.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.