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-02-0024

<Begin Segment 24>

PI: This whole process took more than five years. And I don't think any of us anticipated at the very beginning how long it would take, how many people would be involved, how much work there was, and how much a, of an impact it would have on our own lives. A number of the lawyers, I remember Don Tamaki saying, "Years from now we'll think back on this and think, "We're never going to have another case like this." Regardless of what you do in your career, whether as a lawyer or something else, you're never going to have another experience like this." It's tremendous bonding not only of the legal teams, but the whole Japanese American community and outside it.

As for the long-term impact -- now that it's almost fifteen years since the last decision in the case, just to return once more to that time -- after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in our favor in Gordon's case, and produced an opinion much like Judge Patel's opinion in the Korematsu case, complete vindication, we still were lacking one thing. And we talked about this from the very beginning. Should we try to get into the Supreme Court? Should we try to have that court make a final statement on these cases, hopefully to reverse them, itself by the Supreme Court? And we did spend a good deal of time and had some meetings trying to decide on a strategy to do this. And we, we talked to and corresponded with a lot of constitutional law experts, and finally concluded that it was more risky than, the risks outweighed the potential benefits. There was some thought, since we could not appeal to the Supreme Court ourselves -- only the government could do that, and they gave up after the Ninth Circuit decision in 1986 -- whether we could ask the Court in a sort of extraordinary petition, hopefully one that would be signed by a lot of eminent law professors, to, on its own initiative, reverse the decisions or at least to ratify the decisions of the lower courts. And we finally decided that the risk of the Court simply dismissing that and the publicity that that would generate, people might think, well we had failed. So we decided not to do that. In retrospect, I think that was the correct decision because it was so unpredictable. But now, the redress movement succeeded in the sense that Congress passed the Redress Bill. The President signed the national apology. The redress checks were sent to the survivors of the internment camps. The fund was set up to carry on education about the internment, the Civil Liberties Education Fund or whatever it was called.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.