Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Lorraine Bannai Interview
Narrator: Lorraine Bannai
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: October 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-blorraine-02

<Begin Segment 1>

Q: Could you say something, Lori, about why the government made that motion that they did, and was it anticipated by any of you? What were the reasons for doing that?

LB: We had anticipated the government trying to make some kind of offer to settle the case, or some kind of motion to terminate the case short of litigating the case on the merits, i.e. short of us saying that they had committed some kind of prosecutorial misconduct, and that there was no military necessity, and then them saying, well, there was military necessity, and no, there was no prosecutorial misconduct. It seemed the only politic thing for the government to do to consider not being put in the position of saying they did the right thing. So for several months, many months, we've talked about possible offers to settle, possible motions to terminate the lawsuit. It seems to me it is the smartest thing for the government to do at this point in time. It's a complex answer to say whether we're surprised, or why the government did it. We've been preparing for trial full steam ever since the case got filed, just about every night, every day and every weekend, even believing that the government would find a good political way to resolve the situation. We were kind of expecting any day for some kind of pardon or some kind of offer for settlement or dismissal or vacation to come along, so it doesn't really surprise us that much.

Q: Do you consider it as a pardon?

LB: No. We're actually very pleased that it's not a pardon. We are adamantly, have always been adamantly opposed to a pardon, along with the three petitioners and the cases, Fred Korematsu more so than any of the other petitioners. His position was, "Why should the government be pardoning me? I should be pardoning the government for what they did to me and to the Japanese American community." We don't see it as a pardon because a pardon basically says that yes, you were convicted...


LB: But the government saw it as really different. We view it as being very different from a pardon, because a pardon basically leaves the underlying conviction. A person's convicted and the government comes back and says, "Even though you did something wrong, and even though you were convicted for it, we're going to relieve you of the burden of that conviction. We're going to relieve you of the stigma of the conviction or any other kind of consequences of the conviction, but the conviction lies." Like the Patty Hearst situation. What the government's doing with this is moving to vacate the conviction, that the conviction should not even exist anymore. Even all the way down to the indictment stage, that they're dismissing the original indictment against Fred Korematsu. So it's much more far-reaching we feel than a pardon. And the government knew that we would not agree to a pardon and they never even offered it to us.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

Q: What does this motion mean now to how you are going to proceed? Not only in Korematsu's case, but in Yasui and Hirabayashi? Does it bring your efforts to an end, or how does it change... what are you going to be doing now? What does it mean for what you'll be doing?

LB: I think, with regard to the motion itself, we have to contact the clerk, find out if there's going to be actually a hearing on the motion, whether we'll be able to file responsive papers or not, and what it means to our reply date. We have a reply date to the original. Well, there's supposed to be a response set for later on this month, and then we have a trial date for November 4th. We have to find out what this motion does to that whole time schedule. Probably in response to the motion we'll try and seek some kind of findings of fact, some kind of findings that in fact the military orders were unconstitutional and that the government engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. Along with all that, I think that some of the work that we've been doing all along has to continue until this issue is resolved. We're processing several thousand documents right now and engaged in legal research on a lot of topics. We can't bring our work to a grinding halt right now, not really knowing if the issue is totally resolved. We're of course really pleased, and we may take an evening out to celebrate a little bit, but that doesn't mean that the work's over by any means. With regard to the Hirabayashi case, they're set to complete their discovery and go into what's called a pre-trial conference, I think in November. The government has not filed such a motion as they filed in our case, in their case yet. So they have to proceed as if everything's along schedule. And the same thing with the Yasui case. Chances are I would think the government's going to file the same motion in their cases.

Q: Well, I assumed they were covered in this motion. This motion does not apply to them?

LB: This motion is only filed right now in the Korematsu case. And it seems reasonable the government would file the same one in all three.


LB: I don't think, well, in light of the government's motion, I don't think it's a closed issue. I don't think the issues raised by the petition are a closed issue. First of all, on a legal level, the government has brought a motion. It's not a stipulation where they agree with us to vacate the conviction. They're making the motion to Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, to the judge, and asking the court, "Would it be okay if we just vacated the whole thing?" So it's not necessarily up to us only at this point in time, nor is it up to the government alone. It's up to Judge Patel. We'll suggest to Judge Patel, yes, we do want findings, we want a comment, a judicial comment, some kind of government comment on the evidence that we've presented. Beyond that, though, as a political issue rather than as a legal issue, this issue is certainly not dead for the Japanese American community. I think the government's motion to vacate & whatever happens with the government's motion to vacate is really only the beginning of a whole lot more that's going to happen in the community and Congress, in community forums around this issue. Because the government's saying it's had its first chance in forty years to file on a piece of paper its response to all this and they're not going to. They're not gonna respond directly to whether it was right or wrong, what they did to Japanese Americans. One idea we've toyed with is maybe having a mock trial. To put on the trial that we've been rehearsing for a year and a half, with all the evidence, all the documents that we have, and the attorneys who have been working on the case. Not necessarily to get, of course, a judicial finding, but to put the case on for the public. And I think some people have looked at this case, perhaps not technically correct, but as the trial the Japanese Americans never had. And I think it would be very good to have a forum to have that kind of trial.

Q: What's Mr. Korematsu's response to this?

LB: I really don't know. I mean, what Fred said on the phone right now is he wants some time to think about it. He's pleased, he's not quite sure legally what's going on, but he's really pleased that there's been movement on the case, and that the government's listening. I mean I think just to even say, "Government, you did something wrong," and have it answer anything, you feel like you've got some kind of effect, after forty years of silence on Fred's part. And Fred hasn't talked about the issue in forty years.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.