Korematsu’s Legal Team

1942-44 Attorneys


Fred Korematsu and Ernest Besig, January 7, 1989 (Photo by Shirley Nakao)

Ernest Besig was the founder and executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California until 1971. He was a native of New York and received his J.D. from Cornell Law School. Under Mr. Besig’s leadership, the ACLU challenged the internment of Japanese Americans by taking Fred Korematsu’s case to the Supreme Court in 1944. Mr. Besig also investigated and reported on the conditions of the internment camps at Tule Lake, Manzanar and Tanforan. After close to 40 years of defending Americans’ civil rights, Mr. Besig passed away on November 13, 1998.

Wayne Collins

Wayne Collins was a civil rights attorney and a leader in the legal fight against the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. He worked directly with Ernest Besig at the Northern California ACLU to take Korematsu’s case to the Supreme Court. Mr. Collins also filed two mass class equity suits and two mass class habeas corpus proceedings with the U.S. District Court of San Francisco in 1945, which aimed to establish American nationality, end internment, and cancel renunciation of Japanese Americans. Federal Judge Goodman later ruled the renunciations unconstitutional. Mr. Collins passed away on July 16, 1974.

1983 Coram Nobis Legal Team

 

Press conference addressing the re-opening of Fred Korematsu's case on January 19, 1983. Photo by the Asian Law Caucus

Dale Minami

Lead Counsel Dale Minami is a partner with Minami Tamaki LLP, where he specializes in personal injury and entertainment law. He has been involved in significant litigation involving the civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities, including: Korematsu v. United States, a lawsuit to overturn a 40-year-old conviction for refusal to obey exclusion orders aimed at Japanese Americans during World War II, originally upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in landmark decisions. He was a co-founder of the Asian Law Caucus, Inc., a community-interest law firm, a co-founder of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, the first Asian American Bar Association in the United States, the Asian Pacific Bar of California and the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans, a registered political action committee.

Lorraine Bannai

Lorraine Bannai

Lorraine Bannai is a Professor of Lawyering Skills at the Seattle University School of Law and Associate Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality. Prior to her current teaching position, she directed the academic support program at Boalt Hall School of Law at University of California, Berkeley. She also taught at the University of San Francisco, the John F. Kennedy, and the New College of California Schools of Law. Ms. Bannai was a partner at Minami Tamaki LLP when she joined the Korematsu legal team.

Edward M. Chen

Edward M. Chen

Edward M. Chen was appointed by President Obama to serve as Federal District Judge on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. He is the first Asian American District Judge to be on the bench in the district’s 150 year history. Judge Chen has been recognized for his excellent reputation as a jurist. The Barrister Club of San Francisco in 2007 voted Judge Chen as Judge of the Year, and the American Bar Association awarded Judge Chen with the highest rating of “well qualified.” Prior to his appointment, Judge Chen worked on a wide range of cases for the ACLU including the Korematsu coram nobis case. He also actively served on the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area as well as Human Rights Committee of the California State Bar.

Dennis Hayashi

Dennis Hayashi

Dennis Hayashi currently serves as Superior Court Judge of Alameda County. He has shown his commitment to public service, and especially to civil rights, through his various experiences. Appointed by President Clinton, Mr. Hayashi served as Director of Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he ensured that civil rights laws were enforced in the programs and activities under this department. Mr. Hayashi also served as Director of California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and as attorney for the Asian Law Caucus for over ten years.

Peter Irons

Peter Irons

Peter Irons is a political science professor at University of California, San Diego. He is also an author of many books on Supreme Court and constitutional litigation. Because of his expertise on the topic, he has been invited to speak on constitutional law and civil liberties by Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, and Stanford Law Schools. He was selected as the first Raoul Wallenberg Distinguished Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Rutgers University. Mr. Irons continues to serve as civil rights and liberties attorney today.

Karen Kai


Leigh-Ann Miyasato

Leigh-Ann Miyasato

Leigh-Ann Miyasato is Vice President of DragonBridge Capital, LLC, a merchant bank that assists Chinese technology companies with capital formation. She has also committed more than 10 years within the nonprofit sector. She served as Executive Director of Hawaii Business and Entrepreneur Acceleration Mentors, as Director of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, and as lobbyist for Japanese American Citizens League in Washington D.C.

Robert Rusky


Donald Tamaki

Donald Tamaki

Don Tamaki is a partner with Minami Tamaki LLP, where he focuses on Corporate and Business, Non-profit Corporations, Contracts and Entertainment Law. Northern California Super Lawyers magazine has also recognized Mr. Tamaki as among the top attorneys in corporate law for six consecutive years from 2004 through 2009. In an effort that started the firm’s tradition and commitment to public service, Mr. Tamaki served as a member of the pro bono legal team that successfully reopened the landmark Supreme Court cases of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui and overturned their convictions for refusing to be interned during World War II. He continues to be a lecturer at UC Berkeley in connection with these historic legal events.

Eric Yamamoto

Eric Yamamoto

Eric Yamamoto is currently a law professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai’i. He is internationally recognized for his legal work in civil rights and racial injustice. He not only served as a member of the legal team for the Korematsu case, but he was also a member of the team that represented Manuel Fragante in his accent discrimination case. Mr. Yamamoto has received numerous awards for his law teaching including University of Hawai’i’s highest award, the 2005 Regents Medal for Teaching Excellence, and the Society of American Law Teachers’ nation-wide award as Outstanding Law Teacher for 2006

Other Coram Nobis Team Members

 

(more coming soon!)

Marjie Barrows
Marjie Barrows, coram nobis law clerk

Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, a researcher, who, along with Prof. Peter Irons, uncovered key documents enabling the re-opening of the cases


Donna Komure, Amicus Coordinator