Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Peter Irons Interview II
Narrator: Peter Irons
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Lorraine Bannai (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 27, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-ipeter-02-0015

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LB: Before we get into talking about the cases themselves, can you tell me if you ever thought about contacting Mitsuye Endo?

PI: Yes.

LB: Or if you had tried?

PI: I did. I in fact never found her address or phone number. People simply, people told me, and I think Frank Chuman was the first, "She simply won't talk about this." I knew that she had moved to the Chicago area, that she'd gotten married, and I'm pretty sure she had changed her name or gotten a new last name. I never actually did contact her directly. And I also decided to make the focus of the book -- because I was still writing a book about these cases -- make the focus on the three cases that, Gordon and Min and Fred had, had brought. In the book, by the time I finished writing the book, I, I had discussed the Endo case and some of the other cases that never got to the Supreme Court, of people who were prosecuted or people who pleaded guilty to violating the curfew or evacuation orders, but the focus was really on these three cases.

LB: You had, I want to just clarify the chronology of the time that you started communicating with Dale Minami in San Francisco and when you met Fred, Gordon, and Min. Had you already talked to Dale and started to talk to other attorneys to work on the case?

PI: I don't think at the time I first met with Fred, which was in early January of 1982, that I had contacted any of the lawyers. I'm pretty sure that I had a list of names that I'd gotten from Frank Chuman. But I think I had decided not to contact anybody until I knew that we were going to go ahead.

LB: So, why don't you tell me now about contacting these other lawyers to work on the case. You had said earlier that you knew that you wouldn't be able to do these cases on your own.

PI: Yeah. Also at the time I first talked to Gordon and Min and Fred, I didn't know that I was going to move to San Diego. In fact, I went down from San Francisco to San Diego for that job interview. By the time I got back to Boston, I knew within a few days that I was going to take this job. That, of course, would make things a whole lot easier. So at that point -- and I literally don't remember the dates, but at that point, probably in late January or early February of '82, I contacted, in fact, I wrote a letter to Dale Minami, telling him -- introducing myself -- telling him that I had talked to Gordon and Fred, particularly Fred, and also asking him, I think, if he knew lawyers in Portland and Seattle. I knew Arthur Barnett in Seattle. In fact, I'd talked to him on that first trip, interviewed him. But Arthur was not in a position because mostly of his age, to really take a major role in a coram nobis case. So I got the names, I'm pretty sure from Dale Minami, of lawyers in Portland and Seattle to work with. And I had agreed that, and we had exchanged a number of letters, and I'd sent copies of documents. And Dale had sent back to me a copy of the statement -- actually a rather thick, lengthy statement -- that Bay Area Attorneys for Redress had put together for the commission. When the commission held hearings in San Francisco, this group called Bay Area Attorneys for Redress which Dale was very much act, involved in, had put together a statement about the internment cases, the Supreme Court cases, basically saying that these cases were so bad, so obviously wrong, that something should be done. In fact, they had suggested that the Supreme Court be asked directly to reverse the decisions simply on the ground that a terrible injustice had been committed.

Now, when Dale sent me that statement and we started corresponding, we quickly realized that the best way to do this was coram nobis. When we started out, none of the other lawyers had any experience with or knowledge of coram nobis, and I had written a memo explaining what it was about, how it worked, using my own case as an example -- a six- or seven-page memorandum. This became the basis, the real beginning of our legal research effort, which was really divided into two parts, one was evidence, the documents themselves, and second was the coram nobis procedure. So we agreed that since I wasn't scheduled to move to San Diego until August of '82, that I would come out as soon as I could arrange it. I think I had some small grant money available for travel, that I would come out to San Francisco. And I'm pretty sure that was in May of 1982, the first time I came out and visited. And Dale had set up a meeting of lawyers who were interested in working on this project.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.