Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Dale Minami Interview
Narrator: Dale Minami
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Margaret Chon (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: February 8, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mdale-01-0028

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MC: Were there any differences among the different teams, the three teams that eventually emerged?

DM: I think there were. I think there was... you know, we had a real clear idea of what we should do with this case and how it should progress. We all agreed on the initial strategy of filing first in San Francisco to see -- 'cause we had the best panel of judges, the best choices of judges there. And if we got the right judge of course then we would delay the filing in other places and then we'd go Seattle second because that would have the second best panel of judges. If we got a good judge there we'd delay Portland. If not, we'd file Portland the next day.

MC: And when you say a "good judge," what to you mean by that?

DM: We wanted a judge who was essentially sympathetic to what we were trying to say. Somebody who had, who was smart enough and had enough guts to be able to overturn a forty-year-old governmental conviction on a landmark case with arguments that have never been made before in history. So, I mean, we needed somebody who was a little bit, who was not a little bit, who was really, really tough and sharp and courageous.

MC: So would it be fair to say that your team really took the lead role in terms of all three of the cases?

DM: Well, yeah, we did. Only because, it's kinda funny how this all turned around because we took the lead role because our case was gonna go first. We had the best case. And then we had, the Korematsu case was better than the other ones only because it was decided a year-and-a-half after Hirabayashi, which gave the government a year-and-a-half to make more misconduct and more mistakes and more suppression. So we did have the best case. And so that's why you wanted to start with your strongest, because if you can create the precedent there, people have to follow in line a little bit. So in that sense, yeah, we took the lead because -- and it was a confluence of things, again. It was, we had more help than anyone else. We had a population base that was larger in terms of lawyers. We had the better case. We had the best chance of a panel of judges and so... and we had the best fundraising resources here, too. So you know, it was, wasn't, we didn't do it consciously that way, but I think we understood that those were the factors that meant that the Korematsu case had to lead this thing. What was interesting and ironic is in the end, it was the Hirabayashi case that made the most, the strongest law. Because in the end, they had to go through a full-blown trial, full-blown appeal and got a terrific decision from the court of appeals that is at a higher level than the decision that we got. And so in the end the Hirabayashi people in Seattle did more work. They did a harder case. They got, in a sense, a better result. We just got ours a year, a year-and-a-half faster.

MC: Uh-huh. It almost illustrates how indeterminate law can be. That is, if you have pretty much the same case but in three different courtrooms, slight differences can lead to different outcomes.

DM: Right.

MC: Because Min's case really never achieved the same levels that either of the other two cases did.

DM: Yeah, Min was, it was kind of ironic for Min, or difficult for him in the sense that here he was the most fury, most competent and influential spokesperson among the three coram nobis plaintiffs and yet his case kinda became a footnote, just like it was in 1943 when Hirabayashi was decided. Min's case was decided right after Gordon's and the Court said, "For the reasons that we affirmed the decision in Hirabayashi we affirm the decision of the conviction in Yasui." So Min never got his decision from the Supreme Court in 1943 or from the district court in 1982 -- or '83, excuse me. He just never got the full hearing that he deserved. And yet he never ever complained about any of that. He was out there pitching for the team as a whole. I mean, we had our differences, some huge difference once, but once we got past that the guy was the greatest.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.