Korematsu Center

Civil Rights Amicus Brief Project

As part of its mission to advance civil rights through advocacy, the Korematsu Center is engaged in drafting, as well as signing on to, amicus briefs on cutting-edge issues facing the courts. In this project, the Center is particularly committed to the process of democratizing the courts—ensuring that the voices of those affected by the courts' decisions are heard.

Through its Amicus Committee, made up of Korematsu Faculty Fellows Christian Halliburton, Julie Shapiro, Andy Siegel, and John Strait, and the Center's Director, Robert Chang, the Center has signed on to a number of amicus briefs in civil rights cases across the country.

Amicus Briefs

The Center has authored a number of amicus briefs in civil rights cases, many in partnership with outside members of the practicing bar and other community and advocacy organizations.

2016

State v. Gregory | Jury Bias & Racial Disproportionality in Death Penalty

Washington Supreme Court

The Korematsu Center filed an amicus brief arguing that Washington's death penalty statute is unconstitutional under both the Washington and federal constitutions, which prohibit cruel and unusual punishment. The Center argued that Mr. Gregory's statistical evidence of racial disproportionality in the imposition of the death penalty in Washington provided the Court a basis on which to revisit the constitutionality of the statute. The Center also discussed the extra-legal factors such as racial bias that continue to influence the administration of the death penalty. The brief explained that while aversive racism may negatively affects Black defendants, making them less likely to receive mercy (or discretionary leniency) from a jury, an equally important explanation for racial disproportionality is that in-group favoritism may positively affect White defendants, making them more likely to receive mercy.

Read the Center's amicus brief in State v. Gregory

Native Village of Hooper Bay and Native Village of Kongiganak v. Lawton et al. | Procedural Due Process

Anchorage Superior Court

The Center filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Center for Indian Law & Policy in support of the Tribes, arguing that a native foster child involuntarily admitted for emergency care to a private psychiatric hospital is entitled to a post-admission judicial hearing within 72 hours of admission to justify continued detention. The court awarded preliminary injunctive relief to the tribes, and the Center continues to monitor the case.

Read the Center's amicus brief in the Hooper Bay case

Pro-Football, Inc. v. Blackhorse | Racially Disparaging Trademarks

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

The Korematsu Center, along with co-counsel at Perkins Coie, filed this amicus brief highlighting the continued marginalization of Native Americans, and, against this backdrop, argued that Congress's decision to require the Patent & Trademark Office to refuse to register racially disparaging trademarks does not infringe upon Pro-Football's free speech. The Center represented the National Native American Bar Association, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Native Hawaiian Bar Association, and California Indian Law as amici curiae in support of the Blackhorse defendants.

Read the amicus brief in Pro-Football v. Blackhorse

2015

Vergara v. California | Procedural Due Process

California Court of Appeals

The Korematsu Center and co-counsel Mary Kelly Persyn filed this brief supporting Intervenors-Appellants California Teachers Association, arguing that teacher tenure laws protect teachers in the exercise of their professional discretion to the benefit of students and schools. The Center represented Award-Winning California Teachers, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law & Equality, and American Association of University Professors as amici curiae.

Read the Center's amicus brief in Vergara v. California

In re Simon Shiao Tam | Racially Disparaging Trademarks

Federal Circuit

While the Washington Redskins trademark dispute has garnered national attention, a lesser-known case that is before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit may determine whether the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had the authority to rescind the Washington Redskins trademark. The amicus brief urges the court to recognize that federal registration of a disparaging mark implicates the government, and to not make the federal trademark registry a place where racism is recorded and authorized, and to not require our government to perpetuate racism.

Read the amicus brief co-authored by the Korematsu Center, the South Asian Bar Association of Washington, D.C., and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association as amici curiae.
Read the news article.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association | Public Sector Labor Law

United States Supreme Court

This amicus brief addressed the importance of public sector agency fee requirements, under which union-represented workers must pay their share of the costs of contract negotiation and administration. The brief explained how the collective bargaining process, which is supported by agency fees, improves many states' abilities to deliver public services. Charlotte Garden, litigation director of the Center, along with co-counsel Matthew Bodie, filed the brief on behalf of 48 labor law and labor relations professors.

Read the amicus brief in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

2014

EEOC v. Evans Fruit Co., Inc. | Bias in Closing Argument

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Students in the Civil Rights Amicus Clinic case assisted the Center in filing an amicus brief supporting plaintiff-intervenor Latina farmworkers' request for a new trial based on improper racialization of the case, and specifically educating the court about the dangers of implicit in-group favoritism that could have manifested between the all-white jury and the white owners of the defendant corporation. The Center represented Asian Bar Association of Washington, Latina/o Bar Association of Washington, Loren Miller Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association of Washington, and Vietnamese American Bar Association of Washington as amici curiae.

Read the Center's amicus brief in EEOC v. Evans Fruit

In re Collier; State of Missouri ex rel Griffin; In re McElroy; State of Missouri ex rel Lockhart | Juvenile Justice

Supreme Court of Missouri

In four consolidated cases, the Korematsu Center filed amicus briefs supporting juvenile defendants, setting forth medical research that youth offenders under age 18 are categorically different from adult offenders with regard to culpability, susceptibility to deterrence, vulnerability to peer pressure, and capacity to change, and arguing that all four juveniles be resentenced according to the considerations set forth in Miller v. Alabama.

Read the Center's amicus brief in Collier, et al

2013

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Naiel Nassar, M.D. | Diversity in Professional Schools

United States Supreme Court

This was a Civil Rights Amicus Clinic brief asking the Court to safeguard the anti-retaliation protections of Title VII for employees who report discrimination. The Center represented the Committee of Interns and Residents SEIU, Doctors Council SEIU, and Korean American Medical Association as amici curiae.

Read the Center's amicus brief in UTSWMC v. Nassar
Read the news article.

2012

State v. Allen | Cross-Racial Identification

Washington Supreme Court

The Korematsu Center filed an amicus brief supporting the petitioner's argument that he was entitled to a jury instruction addressing the unreliability of cross-racial identifications, and explaining how the unreliability contributes to racial disproportionality in Washington's criminal justice system. The Center represented the Loren Miller Bar Association of Washington and the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington as amici curiae.

Read the Center's amicus brief in State v. Allen

State v. Garcia-Bueno | Effective Advising on Immigration Consequences

Washington Supreme Court

The Korematsu Center filed an amicus brief educating the court about the importance of effective legal advice concerning the immigration consequences of crimes, after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, and urging the court to give firm guidance that plea colloquies and forms cannot substitute for effective assistance of counsel.

Read the Center's amicus brief in State v. Garcia-Bueno

State v. Sisouvanh | Cultural Competence in Competency Evaluations

Washington Supreme Court

The amicus brief, prepared by counsel from Fenwick & West, representing The Korematsu Center, and joined by OneAmerica, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Asian Counseling & Referral Service, Korean American Bar Association of WA, Middle Eastern Legal Association of Washington, and Dr. Daryl Fujii as amici curiae, drew from medicine and mental health fields to offer an evidence-based approach to understanding that cultural competence must be ensured when court-appointed mental health professionals assess an individual's competency to stand trial.

Read the amicus brief in State v. Sisouvanh

Hedges v. Obama | Procedural Due Process

Second Circuit

This amicus brief, prepared by the Center with co-counsel, challenged provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that permit military officials to indefinitely detain, without due process, individuals believed to be involved in or supporting terrorist activity. The brief asked the court to remember the lessons of the Japanese American incarceration and carefully scrutinize government actions that curtail civil liberties. The brief was filed on behalf of the children of Fred Korematsu, Minoru Yasui, and Gordon Hirabayashi as amici curiae.

Read the amicus brief in Hedges v. Obama

2011

Katare v. Katare, 2011 | National Origin Profiles

Washington Court of Appeals & Washington Supreme Court

In this child custody case, an expert witness used profiles based on national origin to testify regarding the risk that a parent would abduct his child. The Center filed two amicus briefs in the case, requesting the courts to declare the use of such profile evidence improper and prejudicial. The Center represented the Asian Bar Association of Washington, the Pacific Northwest District of the Japanese American Citizens League, and the Vietnamese Bar Association of Washington as amici curiae.

Read the Center's October 2011 amicus brief to the Washington Supreme Court in Katare v. Katare
Read the Center's April 2011 amicus brief in support of the petition for review by the Washington Supreme Court
Read the Center's April 201o amicus brief in Katare v. Katare

State v. Solis-Diaz | Juvenile Justice

Washington Court of Appeals

The Center's amicus brief argued that it is unconstitutional to sentence a 16-year-old to jail for 92-1/2 years for a non-homicide offense, discussing scientific support for the conclusion that juveniles, by virtue of brain development, are less culpable and more capable of redemption than adult offenders. The Center represented the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington and the Loren Miller Bar Association as amici curiae.

Read the Center's amicus brief in State v. Solis-Diaz

State v. Meneese | Juvenile Justice

Washington Supreme Court

In December 2011, the Center filed an amicus brief arguing that a police officer's search of a student on school grounds must be measured by the same standards as police officer searches elsewhere, not a lower standard that applies to searches by school principals and teachers.  The brief assert that juveniles of color are particularly impacted by violations of rights within the criminal justice system.

Read the Center's amicus brief in State v. Meneese

2010

Katare v. Katare | National Origin Profiles

For description, see entry for case in 2011.

Read the Center's April 2010 amicus brief in Katare v. Katare.

2009

Turner v. Stime | Jury Bias

Washington Court of Appeals

On September 11, 2009, the Korematsu Center filed its first amicus brief in the case of Turner v. Stime, a medical malpractice case in which jurors, during deliberations, made comments about plaintiff's counsel's race, referring to him, a Japanese American, as "Mr. Miyagi" and "Mr. Kamikaze." The Center represented the Asian Bar Association of Washington, South Asian Bar Association of Washington, and Washington Women Lawyers as amici curiae.

Read the Turner v. Stime brief.

Amicus Briefs the Korematsu Center has submitted via the Civil Right to Counsel Initiative

Semenenko v. Dep't of Social and Health Services (Washington Supreme Court, 2014) (arguing in support of Supreme Court accepting review of the Court of Appeals decision because it was of "substantial public interest" and the lower court opinion denying the hearing right for late filing of the request could negatively impact hundreds of public assistance applicants and recipients who seek a hearing challenging agency denials of "brutal needs" benefits when they have good cause for the late appeal).

Read the Center's amicus brief in Semenenko v. Dep't of Social and Health Services

Weems v. State Board of Industrial Appeals (Washington Court of Appeals, 2014) (arguing that the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination require provision of representational accommodation when an individualized assessment demonstrates a party with a disability cannot otherwise access the court system).

Read the Center's amicus brief in Weems v. State Board of Industrial Appeals

Amicus Briefs the Korematsu Center has joined

In re Marriage of Black (Washington Court of Appeals, 2015) (advancing the argument that courts may not base custody decisions on a parent's sexual orientation or involvement in a same-sex relationship, because sexual orientation of the parent(s) is unrelated to the best interests of the children).

Read the amicus brief in Black v. Black

State v. O'Dell (Washington Supreme Court, 2015) (discussing recent neuroscience and precedent from the United States Supreme Court to support the argument that Washington's Sentencing Reform Act, allows courts to consider a defendant's youth as a basis for a downward departure even after a defendant has reached his 18th birthday, because young people have different characteristics relevant to mitigation).

Read the amicus brief in State v. O'Dell

State v. Cervantes (Washington Court of Appeals, 2012) (arguing that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, requiring counsel to advise clients about the immigration consequences of plea deals, constituted a substantial change in the law, entitling Mr. Cervantes to an exception to the 1 year filing requirement for post-conviction relief, and arguing for Padilla's retroactive application)

Read the amicus brief in State v. Cervantes

Perry v. Hollingsworth (Ninth Circuit, 2010) (providing legal argument and empirical data to educate court about extent to which prejudice against gay men and lesbians impedes their ability to rely on traditional political processes used to protect minorities from discriminatory state action, so as to warrant heightened scrutiny of Proposition 8).

Read the amicus brief in Perry v. Hollingsworth

Strauss et al. v. Horton et al. (Proposition 8 litigation) (California Supreme Court, 2009) (supporting petitioners arguments based on equal protection and on how Prop 8 improperly revised California's constitution through the initiative process).

Read the amicus brief in Strauss v. Horton