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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-01-0032

<Begin Segment 32>

MC: How did your coram nobis litigation effort intersect with some of the other redress efforts, especially in the early part of the litigation where you were keeping things secret? Did you, since you were the team coordinator, did you explicitly go out and try to work with some of the other redress groups?

DM: No we didn't. We, we did work in a different way with NCJAR because the people who provided some of the evidence, Aiko Yoshinaga Herzig was providing evidence to NCJAR so she was doing it for both of us, and we knew about each other's lawsuits and we kinda kept tabs with each other.

MC: And NCJAR is the National Coalition --

DM: Yes.

MC: -- for Japanese American Redress?

DM: Right. And they had filed a lawsuit for damages for violation of constitutional rights, for monetary damages. We didn't do that in our case because, one, the law didn't really allow for it although you could probably stretch a theory. But number two, we really wanted to keep this perfectly clean. We don't want anybody to impute a motive to Fred Korematsu or Gordon or any of these folks.

MC: Well, once you involve money in a lawsuit people get somewhat cynical --

DM: Sure.

MC: -- about the reason for filing it.

DM: Right.

MC: And (Aiko) is the same person, she was involved with NCJAR, but she was the same person who actually discovered a lot of these documents you used in your case?

DM: Yes, she did. Aiko discovered one of the key, probably the key piece of evidence for the Hirabayashi case.

MC: Which was?

DM: Which was a report by General DeWitt, who had written a report justifying the internment of Japanese Americans that somehow got to the Supreme Court through real, real sub rosa means. It was done not in the usual course of how litigation occurs and even some of the Justices commented about it, slightly about his report. But it was the official justification of the government. What Aiko found in a, miraculously so, was that some words had been changed from the original DeWitt report. And the copies of that report, the original report, were theoretically all burned to destroy evidence of that change. And the change was a major one. It changed the justification from saying essentially, "Well, we can't tell" -- they say the sheep from the goats, "We can't tell which Japanese Americans are loyal or disloyal." He's implying that they're so inscrutable. That was changed to say, "Well, we don't have enough time to make that distinction." And that became a critical issue in the Supreme Court decision. And so Aiko found that the court, the report had been altered and the original ones had been destroyed.

MC: And the original one also implied that there was, in fact, time to determine --

DM: Correct.

MC: -- "the sheep from the goats," but that there was just no way to do it.

DM: It didn't imply, it said, "It's not that there's not a matter of time to determine, it's that we cannot distinguish, tell the sheep from the goats." You're totally right. So it did say that there was enough time, it just, they're too, they're too inscrutable.

MC: So, she was in touch with you, then, during the course of your litigation? Was she the sort of point person --

DM: Right.

MC: -- for that group?

DM: She, and Peter was, too. Peter worked closely with William Hohri. So everybody had their kind of own connections. I was trying to work with the different teams. Lori Bannai was doing the document control, watching over the, figuring out what documents we needed, and handling that. Peter was dealing with NCJAR and also with opposing counsel. We both did it at different times. Bob and Karen were in the center of the research with Dennis Hayashi, and Don was doing the fundraising and media work.

MC: And so did you coordinate your litigation efforts at all with the case for damages, or were they really two separate lawsuits?

DM: We didn't really coordinate it. They were planning to file but their case was so massive they couldn't do it until after us. But any doc-, we agreed to exchange documents. Whatever documents we got we traded off. So we were supportive of each other. And at that time, of course, there were other redress groups and it was, they were not fighting each other, but very critical of each other behind closed doors. Lots of people were critical of NCJAR. It was our position that anything that moves us forward and closer to the goal of getting redress is necessary to support. And no question in my mind, NCJAR's suit was a major factor, a really important factor in the whole redress movement.

MC: So in your opinion, whether or not the suit for damages was won or lost, politically it had a lot of impact.

DM: Well, it depended on when it was won or lost. I mean, one, it had impact anyway, just by education. But two, as long as they posed a threat that they might get us forty billion dollars or something like that... you know, Congress has to take a little bit of note of that. I totally believe that strategy was a good strategy.

MC: That's interesting because the same thing is going on right now with pending complaints for African American redress.

DM: Reparations, uh-huh.

MC: And it'll be interesting to see how that plays out. So, let's move on a little bit to questions of strategy, legal strategy.

DM: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.