On March 28, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California hosted a Law Day event for more than 100 high school students at the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena. The event was held in conjunction with the Ninth Circuit Civics Contest, an essay and video contest for high school students, with the theme: “Not to be Forgotten: Legal Lessons of the Japanese Internment.”
Numerous judges participated in the event, including Senior Ninth Circuit Judges Raymond C. Fisher, Dorothy W. Nelson, and A. Wallace Tashima; Senior District Judges Terry Hatter, Jr., and Ronald S.W. Lew; District Judges Lourdes G. Baird (Ret.), and John A. Kronstadt; Magistrate Judge Paul L. Abrams; Bankruptcy Judges Martin R. Barash, Thomas B. Donovan, Sandra R. Klein, and Robert N. Kwan; and Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Firdaus F. Dordi, Jon R. Takasugi, and Melissa N. Widdifield. There were several special guests, including Sandra Alarcón, widow of the late Hon. Arthur L. Alarcón; Sandra Brown, the acting United States Attorney for the Central District of California; Eve Fisher, a Ninth Circuit Senior Deputy Clerk; David Madden, the Ninth Circuit Assistant Circuit Executive for Public Information; and Molly C. Dwyer, the Ninth Circuit Clerk of Court. Bankruptcy Clerk and Executive Officer Kathy Campbell, as well as members of her staff, also attended and helped make the event a huge success. In addition to the judges and guests listed above, a number of attorneys volunteered during the event, including assistant U.S. attorneys, deputy federal public defenders, and attorneys from private practice.
The Law Day event began with brief opening remarks by Judge Klein. Judge Fisher welcomed the students on behalf of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Kronstadt did so on behalf of the District Court. Judge Klein then introduced each Judge and special guest.
Following a brief summary of the events leading up to the Japanese internment and an overview of the Supreme Court decisions in Hirabayashi and Korematsu, Judge Klein introduced the panel of guest speakers: Judge Tashima, Judge Takasugi, Patricia A. Kinaga, and Gary Toyo Miyatake. The speakers shared poignant stories about their families’ experiences during the Japanese internment.
As a child, Judge Tashima was interned at the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona. He recalled his parents learning of the forced relocation through their church and being faced with the difficult task of packing their belongings and only being able to take what they could carry.
Patricia Kinaga’s parents, Thomas and Rose Kinaga, met while interned at the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming. Her father, Thomas, was one of the first to volunteer for the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit of Japanese American soldiers that would become one of the most decorated military units in United States history.
Gary Toyo Miyatake is a third-generation photographer and the grandson of renowned photographer Toyo Miyatake, who was interned at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California. While interned, Toyo Miyatake photographed daily life using a camera lens he smuggled into Manzanar. Gary Miyatake explained that his grandfather took the photographs because he felt it was important for future generations to understand the impact of the internment on Japanese Americans.
Judge Takasugi is the son of the late U.S. District Judge Robert M. Takasugi, who was interned at Tule Lake in California and was the first Japanese American appointed to the federal bench on the mainland. Judge Takasugi served as the moderator for the panel discussion. He plans to write a biography of his father’s life in the near future.
The Law Day audience was fully engrossed in the discussion as the panelists recounted their experiences and those of their families during the internment. Judge Klein mentioned that approximately 40 years after the internment, Congress created the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, which studied how the interment could have happened. The Commission determined there were three reasons: racism, fear and wartime hysteria, and a failure of leadership.
Judge Klein noted that one of the reasons that we continue to discuss the internment is to make sure it is not forgotten and that we learn from our past mistakes. And, as Judge Tashima stated so eloquently in an article that he wrote, “We study history because those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The Bankruptcy Court’s Community Outreach Committee, chaired by Judge Klein, organized the Law Day event. In her concluding remarks, Judge Klein mentioned that the Law Day event would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Jessica Garibay, an Administrative Specialist, and a virtual army of Clerk’s Office staff who worked behind the scenes to make the day such a success.