Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Charles Z. Smith Interview
Narrator: Charles Z. Smith
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 13, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-scharles-01-0015

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TI: Well, actually, I want to go back. You mentioned the, the commission hearings, and you mentioned how you attended those. From your perspective as a judge, watching those hearings, were they an effective way to, to learn about and for the government to evaluate what happened? I mean, there have been claims that, that they were, they were biased. Most of the testimonies were from Japanese Americans, and there weren't that many in terms of actually their, from the side of justifying the government's perspective. And I was wondering from your perspective as a judge, as sort of a more objective viewpoint, what you thought of the hearings.

CS: I never saw the commission as a vehicle to help to justify the government's position. I saw the commission as a vehicle to investigate the facts of what actually happened to our citizens who experienced the internment and relocation and the imprisonment, all of these together. To me it was revealing to -- not only to me, but to other members of the general public, who did not have the background that I had, to hear what had happened to some of these wonderful people who had maintained their silence for so many years, who had not even discussed their experience with their children. And so we had these Issei, Nisei, coming forward to share publicly -- for the first time -- their recollections of their experience. And it was moving, absolutely moving. From the standpoint of fairness and my role as a judge, I felt that it served its intended purpose: to investigate the facts of the experiences of American citizens, mostly citizens -- and those who weren't citizens couldn't become citizens under our alien exclusion laws. And so all of this was capsulized in the commission report. I do not consider the report biased in any sense. I do not consider it biased, any more biased than any other report issued by the government. And the federal government had, did not have to have a commission to publish its side of the story. Even now, they can publish their side of the story, whether directly or indirectly through well-meaning writers who will come up with the government's position on it. But I look at the true story as being documented in the court opinions, particularly the Hirabayashi cases, the opinion by Judge Donald Voorhees, United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, and its successor opinion by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the opinion by Chief Judge Mary Schroeder. If I need to have any information on the facts, instead of reading the commission report, instead of reading Michi Weglyn's book, I would read Judge Voorhees' opinion and Judge Schroeder's opinion. That would give me all the information I would need to have to know that the relocation under 9066 was absolutely wrong. It was inconsistent with all the principles of democracy that we believe in.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.