Law school honors courage of Gordon Hirabayashi at Feb. 11 event

January 17, 2012

The law school's Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Ninth Circuit opinion in the Hirabayashi v. United States coram nobis case at a day-long conference Saturday, Feb. 11, at Campion ballroom.

During World War II, Gordon Hirabayashi was a 24-year-old senior at the University of Washington - an American citizen by birth - when, as acts of civil disobedience, he defied a curfew imposed on persons of Japanese ancestry and refused to comply with military orders forcing Japanese Americans to leave the West Coast into concentration camps. He appealed his convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in one of the most infamous cases in American history, held that the curfew order was justified by military necessity and was, therefore, constitutional. A year and a half later, in Korematsu v. United States, the Court relied wholly on its Hirabayashi decision to uphold the mass removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.

Forty years later, in 1983, represented by a remarkable and dedicated team of lawyers, Mr. Hirabayashi reopened his case, filing a petition for writ of error coram nobis in Seattle that sought vacation of his wartime convictions on the ground that the government, during World War II, had suppressed, altered, and destroyed material evidence relevant to the issue of military necessity. In 1986, the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion authored by Judge Mary Schroeder, vacated both Mr. Hirabayashi's curfew and exclusion convictions on proof of the allegations of governmental misconduct. Hirabayashi v. United States, 828 F.2d 591 (9th Cir. 1987).

The conference is being held to celebrate Mr. Hirabayashi's courage in resisting these military orders; to reflect on his 1943 Supreme Court case and the extraordinary work of his legal team in reopening of his case nearly 40 years later; and to use his case as a springboard to discuss moving forward in the struggle for civil rights. Speakers include Judge Schroeder; members of Mr. Hirabayashi's coram nobis legal team; Mr. Hirabayashi's son, Jay Hirabayashi; and noted academics and public interest attorneys from across the country. Hirabayashi died Jan. 2 at age 93.

The program is open to the public at no charge, but registration is required. Register and find more information. Admission for attorneys wishing CLE credit is $50. 

For further information, contact Junsen Ohno, Korematsu Center Administrator, at or (206) 398-4283 or Lorraine Bannai, Director, Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at 206-398-4009 or