Densho Digital Repository
Katsugo Miho Collection
Title: Katsugo Miho Interview VII
Narrator: Katsugo Miho
Interviewers: Michiko Kodama Nishimoto (primary), Warren Nishimoto (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: March 22, 2006
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1022-7-7

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MN: I think I read somewhere that your law firm also was involved in cases where postwar brides were having family difficulties and were going through these court cases.

KM: I ended up doing a lot of domestic relations cases after the war and during the occupation. A whole bunch of American GIs got married to Japanese girls and decided to bring them back to Hawaii. And in many, many cases, it didn't work out, unfortunately. The cultural differences were too great an obstacle. And within five or six years, and this was remembering that the war ended in 1945. And about 1950 and thereon, the bulk of these GIs started to return and bring back the wives with them. And around 1955 or 1956, or five or six years after they came back over here, domestic problems became a big issue in Hawaii of these interracial marriages. And only a few of our law firms at that point had Japanese-speaking lawyers. My brother was one and I was one. I could converse enough to get involved, and so I ended up doing a lot of domestic relations cases because of the fact that there were not too many other attorneys in town who could handle the cases. But this is part of the reason why I was enticed to become a family court referee by Judge Herman Lum. After I got through with my political time, eleven years in the house, at that time, there was no family court system. Divorce matters were handled by referees. And the referees, findings and rulings were always subject to review by a circuit court judge. And the pay was so low that nobody wanted to become a referee in the family court system at that point.

But Herman Lum, Judge Lum, was a good friend of mine. We had a poker gang, what we called [inaudible] and Judge Lum was one of our members. And so he knew me quite well, and he knew what kind of practice I had, and he was the chief justice at that time. And so he said, "Kats, look, you're receiving a small, after my eleven years' term in the house," he said, he pointed out to me that I was getting x-number of dollars for my retirement fund, which I would qualify after I reached age fifty. And it was based on the high three, the high three for the state legislator at that point was thousand five hundred dollars. So the high three was one bulk... ten percent? Ten percent of the high three. So anyway, it was a very nominal amount, but he said, "Look, if you serve three years as a referee at the salary of -- I forgot what it was, nine thousand or ten thousand -- "and your high three, in just three years would triple." And so if after three years serving as a referee you wanted to get out, you get out. But your retirement pay for that short three years would triple for what I would be getting at age fifty. Unfortunately, at the end of three years, they made it into a district courtship. The raised the level of the... they formed the family court system and the family district court judge received a substantial pay increase from the referee. And so at that point it was a six-year term, I think. And so Judge Lum says, "Well, no sense you getting out in three years because if you now serve six more years, your retirement income will be that much more different," based on the higher three. And so I got enticed into staying six more years as a district family court judge.

MN: And when you say a district family court judge, what kinds of cases did you...

KM: Strictly, there was the matrimonial adoptions and juvenile cases were a family court matter. Juvenile -- all matters relating to juveniles, then the marital domestic relations cases and adoptions were the three areas of family court jurisdiction.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.