Min Yasui v. United States

Yasui v. United States, 1943

Ruling: 9-0, United States Supreme Court

Min Yasui was born in October 1916 in Oregon to Japanese parents[i]. In 1933, Mr. Yasui enrolled at the University of Oregon in Eugene.  On December 18, 1937, after two years of compulsory military training followed by reserve officer training, Mr. Yasui received a commission as Second Lieutenant in the Army Infantry Reserve.  In 1939, Mr. Yasui graduated from University of Oregon’s law school and started a job with the Japanese consulate in Chicago[ii].  Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Mr. Yasui received an order from the Army to report for duty at Fort Vancouver in Portland.  Upon his arrival at the barracks, the Army told Mr. Yasui that he was unacceptable for service and immediately ordered him off the base. Mr. Yasui then returned eight more times to offer to serve, only to be turned away each time[iii]. On March 28, 1942, Mr. Yasui directly challenged the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066. With a copy of the curfew order (Public Proclamation Number 3) in hand, Mr. Yasui walked up and down the Portland streets seeking to be arrested; he had his secretary call the police in advance to alert them that he was breaking curfew. When an officer told him to go home, he went straight to the station and demanded arrest[iv]. He spent the next couple of months at an assembly center near Portland and then nine months [v] in solitary confinement at Minidoka concentration camp near Twin Falls, Idaho.

In November 1942, a federal judge ruled that Mr. Yasui had forfeited his American citizenship as an employee for the Japanese consulate and also violated curfew. When Mr. Yasui’s lawyers appealed his case to the Supreme Court, the Court upheld the constitutionality of the curfew and convicted Mr. Yasui for violating Executive Order 9066 [vi].

Following WWII, Mr. Yasui relocated to Denver, Colorado.  In 1984, Mr. Yasui’s new legal team filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, requesting that his conviction be vacated on the grounds that the U.S. government had suppressed, altered, and destroyed material evidence during his WWII prosecution.  Similar petitions were filed by the legal teams of Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi. The court vacated Yasui’s conviction, but refused to review the claims of prosecutorial misconduct for a charge “forty years after the events took place.” Although Mr. Yasui’s lawyers appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, Mr. Yasui’s death in 1986 forced the federal court to declare that his case was “mooted” by his death[vii].

A foundation in Denver administers an annual awards ceremony in Min Yasui’s name to honor his spirit of community volunteerism. A statue of Mr. Yasui also stands in Denver’s Sakura square.

Yasui Coram Nobis Legal Team

Peggy Nagae (lead counsel)
Jeffrey Beaver
Frank Chuman
Fern Eng
Bert Fukumoto
Stephen Griffith
Wm Scott Meisner
Mary Mori
Clayton Patrick
Don Willner

 

[i] San Francisco State University, “Japanese American Internment Curriculum: Minoru Yasui”. http://bss.sfsu.edu/internment/yasui_bio.html (retrieved August 20th, 2011).

[ii] San Francisco State University, “Japanese American Internment Curriculum: Minoru Yasui”. http://bss.sfsu.edu/internment/yasui_bio.html (retrieved August 20th, 2011).

[iii] Oregon History Project, “Minoru Yasui”, 2002. http://ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/historical_records/dspDocument.cfm?doc_ID=B65C1916-1C23-B9D3-687221CAFAD01AA8  (accessed August 19th, 2011).

[iv]Oregon History Project, “Minoru Yasui”, 2002. http://ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/historical_records/dspDocument.cfm?doc_ID=B65C1916-1C23-B9D3-687221CAFAD01AA8  (accessed August 19th, 2011).

[v] “The History of Minoru Yasui”. http://minoruyasui.com/history%20timeline.pdf (accessed August 24th, 2011).

[vi] Oregon History Project, “Minoru Yasui”, 2002. http://ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/historical_records/dspDocument.cfm?doc_ID=B65C1916-1C23-B9D3-687221CAFAD01AA8  (accessed August 19th, 2011).

[vii] Oregon History Project, “Minoru Yasui”, 2002. http://ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/historical_records/dspDocument.cfm?doc_ID=B65C1916-1C23-B9D3-687221CAFAD01AA8  (accessed August 19th, 2011).