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-01-0029

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MC: I'd like to explore some of those differences. So, can you describe, or do you remember some of the details of why you and Min crossed swords at one point?

DM: Oh, absolutely. It was so, it's absolutely clear in my mind because it was, to me a turning point in the case. It would have been a turning point one way or another. I remember my, Don Tamaki, of the Asian Law Caucus was there and we were trying to raise money 'cause we needed to get money to finance this case. We had to pay for copying, postage, everything, and we had, I mean, we were poor lawyers. We didn't have that much. We couldn't finance it. So Don took the lead in financing. He also took the lead in handling media relations. So Don had come over to talk, and people were telling us from around the country that Min was giving these speeches about the coram nobis case, because Min was involved in redress at the time. And he was talking about how he had his own case, he goes, "We're not gonna win this case but we're doing this for educational reasons." And so, as coordinating attorney I was deputized to talk to Min and persuade him not to say it quite like that.

So I called Min up and we had never really had a conversation hardly at all. And I said, "Min," -- we used first names at least -- "this is Dale Minami." He goes -- and he could be very gruff -- he goes, "Hello, how are you?" I said, "I'm doing fine. You know, I just wanted to talk to you a little bit about some of the speeches you're giving." He goes, "Fine, what's the problem?" And I said, and Min could be very intimidating, too, 'cause he had this great voice and he was a strong, tough guy. I said, "You've been giving these speeches around the country that we're not gonna win these cases and that..." He goes, "Well we aren't." I go, "Well, let me finish, please. I think we're gonna win 'em, Min. But when you say that we're not going to, it kind of hurts our efforts to finance them." And he goes, "Well, I don't believe we're gonna win them." I said, "Well, maybe we have a difference of opinion, Min, but we really need to be able to try to finance these cases." And he goes, "Well, are you trying to, are you trying to curtail my first amendment rights?" And I said, "No, no, Min, I'm not trying to do that at all. I'm just trying to say that if you keep talking about the negative parts of it, I think we're gonna have a hard time financing." He goes, "Well, you're not my lawyer." By then, I'd had it. I said, "You're goddamned right, I'm not your [interruption] lawyer," and I hung up. And I went, oh man, what did I do? And Don was sitting there and he looks at me and he goes, "Bye-bye cases." I thought, shit, we don't have any cases anymore. I just pissed off one of our major plaintiffs. So I waited five minutes and I did the only thing I could think of doing. I called him up. And I said, "Min this is Dale Minami." He goes, "Yes?" And I said, "Min, I'm sorry I swore at you. That was totally inappropriate. It was totally unprofessional. But I still think we're gonna win these cases." And then there was a silence at the end. Nothing happened. And I'm thinking now he's even more pissed off. And he goes, "Dale, you're a real man. I'm not going to say that anymore. I'll follow whatever directions you give me." And he never mentioned it again. And he became our biggest booster. And we got together after that and laughed a little bit about it.

MC: Uh-huh.

DM: We had dinner one night and, but boy, my heart was pumping 'cause I just thought we lost a main plaintiff on this. But you know, Min was one of those Niseis that if you stood up and argued and... he would respect you at least. And so that was one difference.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.