A Chance of a Lifetime

When our legal team stood in the courtroom of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on a rainy Nov. 10, 1983, to argue for the overturning of Fred Korematsu’s 40-year-old conviction for failure to obey the military orders directed at Japanese Americans in 1942, we knew that an extraordinary event would be unfolding before us.

Our first clue was the reassignment from Judge Marilyn Hall Patel’s courtroom to the “ceremonial courtroom,” a larger and more grandiose venue for what might become a historic occasion.

The second clue was the crowd. Folding chairs were brought in to accommodate the more than 1,000 people. Reporters were stuffed into the jury box that usually seated only 12 people. Third, the composition of the audience was unusual for a court case – many JAs including Nisei, former internees, 442nd members and our friends and family were there.

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