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-01-0038

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MC: So you filed these petitions in the early '80s. Was it 1983? Or was it a little earlier than that? I can't --

DM: It was '83.

MC: '83. Okay. So by that time the Civil Rights movement --

DM: Or was it was '82? '82.

MC: '82. The petitions were filed in 1982 and by that time the Civil Rights movement had pretty much run its course and we had just elected a Republican president, Reagan. The country was beginning sort of a right-ward turn. [Ed. note: The petitions were filed on January 19, 1983, and the hearing took place on November 10, 1983.]

DM: Uh-huh.

MC: Did that larger political context have any bearing on your litigation strategies or your thoughts about whether the case might be successful?

DM: Only to a certain degree. I mean, because of, I think, the clarity of what we saw as a great, great wrong with wonderful proof to be able to prove to a court it's a great, great wrong, and prove to the American public it was a great wrong, you know, that wasn't going to change how we presented the case. It did change the way we looked at deciding whether to get to the Supreme Court or figuring out a stratagem to get to the Supreme Court. We actually, we wanted to avoid that because we didn't trust the Supreme Court at that time. So to that extent the right-ward tilt did affect that part of the legal strategy. It did, I think Don could probably even answer this better, but affect our media strategy, the way we presented the case. And we presented the case along the lines as much as the people in the redress movement presented their cases, along their lines -- which I thought was brilliant -- that this is not just a Japanese American story of Fred Korematsu, this is an American story about civil rights. That's how we cast it initially and we felt that we needed to do this. If this were perhaps in the '60s where there was more racial --

MC: Identity politics.

DM: -- consciousness and identity politics, maybe it would have been a Japanese American case. But we knew this is, had to be sold to the American public.

MC: So you stuck to that theme throughout.

DM: We did.

MC: So, can you describe a little bit about Victor Stone, the government attorney who apparently was the opponent in all three cases?

DM: Correct. You know, it's hard to divine his intentions and his mental state, and its hard for me to do pop psychology on Victor. He seemed to me to be a reaction... he reacted to everything. And he was so low -- not so low, his personality was such that he would just do what was told to him. He didn't seem to have any kind of independent viewpoint. And because there was so much confusion internally, he wasn't getting a lot of direction. So it was very difficult on him. Which made him take different positions at different times, because he was not able to make his own judgment and decisions on things. So to me he was a cipher. He was a cipher for the confusion of the policy of the Department of Justice. He did what they told him and it was just like bulldog straight ahead.

MC: What do you think was the confusion at the Justice Department about the case?

DM: I think it was hawks and doves. I think some people wanted to make peace and try to get rid of the cases. I think some people wanted to fight it to the end because they were justified in interning Japanese Americans. And so they couldn't come to a coherent policy and Victor was caught in the middle on that. And so as a result, he had to deal with us and then had to go try a case in Seattle.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.