From the Editor

And justice for all

editor-sealThe law is about stories, they say, so here’s one—from Wayne Kanemoto J.D. ’42 about his law school days at Santa Clara during the winter of ’42. Like many law students, he and his buddies put in some serious time studying in the library. They also took breaks, let off steam. One night after dinner they were shooting craps and then, wouldn’t you know it, the air raid sirens began wailing. The students killed the lights in the boarding house where they were holed up. Then they looked up the street and saw “to our horror … Bergin Hall was lit up like a Christmas tree.” These were lean times; in the evening or on the weekend, tending to the lights was the job of a student—Ed Nelson 39, J.D. ’42—who heard the sirens and knew that meant a mandatory blackout. Soldiers had orders, should someone fail to comply, to shoot out the lights. Kanemoto and Nelson and crew sprinted to Bergin Hall and outened the lights. Then, crisis averted, they found a maintenance closet where lamplight wouldn’t be visible from the outside and they went back to playing craps. 

It’s a lighthearted tale, part of a section in Kanemoto’s memoirs dubbed “Funny things happened on the way to becoming an attorney.” What happened later that year to Kanemoto wasn’t quite so humorous: In the midst of final exams, all persons of Japanese ancestry in the community were subject to immediate removal orders. Kanemoto’s parents emigrated from Hiroshima before he was born; he was not allowed to finish his exams. But Dean Edwin J. Owens told Kanemoto that his scholastic record spoke for itself; he was granted a passing grade in the remaining subjects and his diploma was mailed to him at the Santa Anita Assembly Center near Pasadena—a converted race track—where Kanemoto was sent to a U.S. Army evacuation camp. 

Then came the bar. Kanemoto had hauled a wooden crate of textbooks and class notes with him to study, though he increasingly wondered what the point was—would he be permitted to take the exam? Dean Owens encouraged him to press on, so he did. His application to take the test in Los Angeles was granted. He was taken to City Hall each day under armed escort. 

Wayne Kanemoto J.D. '42He then joined his parents and the rest of his family at an internment camp in Gila River, Ariz. And there, in the shade of a saguaro cactus, he was sworn in as a California attorney.

Kanemoto volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team but before seeing action he was transferred to the Army Air Force, which sent him to India and Burma as a Japanese language signal intelligence specialist. After the war, he hung out his shingle in San Jose—making him the first Japanese-American attorney in the county. The practice went well. And in the beginning of 1962, he was appointed as a judge in the San Jose-Milpitas-Alviso Municipal Court—the first person of Japanese ancestry to serve as a judge in Northern California. He retired in 1982, and he died in 2008. 

As Kanemoto’s memoir recounts, the “lengthy calendars and sometimes fractious litigants that appeared in court could try a judge’s nerves.” So while serving on the bench, he posted a sign, visible only to him: PATIENCE! Good advice for those with or without robes and gavels.

Keep the faith,

Steven Boyd Saum

Summer 2011

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