Judge Denny Chin to help Hawai’i law school students reenact trial of Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee

U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Denny Chin, based in New York City, will guest lecture at the UH Law School on Tuesday, October 18, and will help student actors perform a reenactment based on trials after resistance by Heart Mountain internees.  Judge Chin and his wife, attorney Kathy Hirata Chin, created the reenactment based on trial transcripts.

In addition to teaching and speaking at a faculty workshop, Judge Chin will lead a public presentation about the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, one of 10 concentration camps used to intern Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Heart Mountain is known for the active resistance offered by many of the young men incarcerated there, protesting loss of their civil rights. The short performance, featuring law student actors, will be free and open to the public in Classroom 2 at the Law School at 2515 Dole Street beginning at 5:15 p.m.

Judge Chin and Hirata Chin have been deeply involved in research about the camp, and co-wrote a script that reenacts two of the trials of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. The committee was a group of young resisters who challenged the draft of young Nisei men, and who argued that they would not follow draft orders until the rights of internees were reinstated.

Today Heart Mountain is the internment camp with the most structures still intact.  It was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 2007.

Judge Chin is well known as the trial judge who, in 2009, sentenced Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison for the Ponzi scheme that impoverished investors who had entrusted Madoff with their life savings. In sentencing Madoff, Judge Chin said, “The message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extraordinarily evil.”  He added that they had taken “a staggering human toll” and there was a need for “retribution.”

Dean Avi Soifer called Judge Chin’s visit an important event for the Law School, in particular because of its deep involvement in addressing and healing civil rights abuses.

Said Soifer, “It is hardly surprising that there is so much interest among our students and staff in these very important matters, in addition to the scholarly focus of a number of our faculty members.”

Professor Eric Yamamoto, the Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice, for example, has spent a scholarly lifetime researching, and writing and lecturing about, civil injustice, including the incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans by their own government.  Yamamoto helped challenge the imprisonment of Fred Korematsu for defying the order to report for incarceration, winning a decisive victory in the 1980s that helped set the stage for reparations for those interned and their descendants, and a formal apology from the American government.

During their visit, Judge Chin and Hirata Chin will also meet with Law School faculty members as well as federal judges and members of the Federal Bar Association.

Judge Chin graduated from Princeton University magna cum laude in 1975, and earned his JD from Fordham Law School in 1978. Judge Chin is the only Asian American who serves as a currently active judge in the federal appellate court system. In 1994, he was the first Asian American appointed as a U.S. District Judge outside the Ninth Circuit. Hirata Chin is a leading corporate lawyer in New York City who also has led and served on multiple public interest task forces and committees.

Source: University of Hawai’i press release

Photo: Densho Digital Repository

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