February 7th Election Date back ON!

At the request of City Councilmembers Tran, Nunez, and Clark, the Rosemead City Council met in special session on December 16th, 2005. At that meeting, the council rescinded its actions of December 5th and re-established the recall election for February 7th, 2006.

Councilmen Tran and Nunez were joined by Councilwoman Clark in voting to reinstate the election. Councilmen Imperial and Taylor voted against reinstating the election.

Thanks to all the SOC volunteers who helped create the political and legal environment that forced Councilmember Clark to rethink her earlier position. Thanks also to Councilmembers Nunez and Tran for dramatizing the legal requirement that the election not only be reinstated, but also kept on the original February 7th date.

"Justice Delayed is Justice Denied"

At the City Council meeting on December 16th, I made passing reference to the case of Fred Korematsu.

In 1942, Fred Korematsu was a native-born citizen of the United States, living in San Leandro, CA. In early 1942, he was arrested on the streets of San Leandro for being a citizen of Japanese ancestry still living free in the state of California. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and detained in a relocation center for the duration of the Second World War. His original conviction was upheld on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, and later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. That opinion was released on December 18th, 1944, almost exactly 61 years ago today.

In 1983, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians [one of those blue-ribbon, presidential commissions that Washington is so fond of creating] issued its report, "Personal Justice Denied," which documented the process whereby 120,000 persons, 2/3 of them native-born citizens of the United States, were forced into relocation centers, some for over four years, merely because they shared ancestry with a nation with which we were at war.

Also in 1983, Korematsu, along with Min Yasui and Gordon Hirabayasi [two other American citizens who were convicted for being of Japanese ancestry and living on the West Coast of the United States], filed suit in federal court to have their wartime convictions vacated. Yasui died before his case was fully resolved, but both Hirabayashi and Korematsu did manage to get their convictions vacated.

On the basis of the findings of the Commission, and of the litigation pursued by Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Yasui, Congress eventually passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This law formally apologized to those persons of Japanese ancestry for their wartime incarceration by the United States government.

In making this apology, Congress helped right a wrong. Yet it was still over forty years since the original convictions, and still over 40 years since so many had been incarcerated on the basis of their skin color. Everyone realized that an apology in 1988 could not fully rectify an injustice perpetrated upon people like Korematsu forty years before. Hence, the refrain, when speaking of the length of time between conviction and apology, that "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied."

Obviously, we in Rosemead did not go through so complete a loss of our civil rights as did Fred Koremastsu. But it did seem appropriate to note the underlying truth of what was being considered: We earned the recall election through our efforts gathering signatures on the recall petitions. The longer this election was put off, the greater the injustice we would face. Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.


Fred Korematsu died on March 30, 2005. Yet, when I first heard of his passing, a check of www.cnn.com yielded no information. In watching the evening newscasts on March 30th, I again saw no mention of Korematsu. In the local newspapers the next day, there was, again, no indication of his passing. It was not until April 1, 2005, that Korematsu's obituary appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

It seemed outrageous to me that the death of an individual who had done so much in defense of our civil liberties, and who had even been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, could merit so little attention in the mainstream press. But it was not entirely surprising.

Fred was obviously a quiet and humble man. For years, he felt guilty because he thought he had let Liberty down. He had fought his case all the way to the Supreme Court, and lost. The coram nobis litigation that eventually vacated his conviction, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1988, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, were still not enough for him to feel he had made up for "losing" Liberty.

Just over a year ago, I listened to Fred Korematsu speak at a conference marking the 60th anniversary of his Supreme Court case. About five years previous to that, I had seen him speak at a seminar sponsored by the UNLV law school upon the release of a video called, "Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story." It was clear that Fred was slowing down. But there he was, still doing what he could to call attention, not to himself, but to the spectre of injustice that he saw whenever our country finds another "other" to battle. He was still trying to make up for losing in 1944.

So I suppose I was heartened that there were many people in the audience of that December 16th City Council meeting that remembered Fred Korematsu. It's a little bit comforting to know that when his name was invoked, it still had at least a little bit of power to get people to look at an injustice and say, "Yes. We know what you mean."

Justice, Delayed, Again

Well, looks like it's Justice, Delayed, again.  Goodbye, February 7th election.  Goodbye, Democracy.  See you in a few months?  We can only hope.