The Constitution in a Time of War: The Trial of Minoru Yasui

Thu, Sep 16, 2010, 4:30 pm
Speaker(s): 
Sponsor(s): 
Program in American Studies

Princeton University Constitution Day Lecture

A reenactment featuring Princeton students and a conversation with the Honorable Denny Chin, United States Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit. A presentation of the Critical Encounters Series.

This two-part program begins with a dramatic re-enactment, featuring student readers, of the trial of Minoru Yasui, who was convicted in federal court in Portland, Oregon, in 1942 of defying military orders that eventually resulted in the internment of some 120,000 Japanese-Americans, the majority of whom were U.S. citizens. Portions of the trial, including the direct and cross-examinations of Minoru Yasui, are presented, drawn from the actual trial transcripts. The program continues with a discussion of issues raised by the Yasui case that still resonate today: What does it mean to be a United States citizen? Does the administration of justice bend under the weight of national crisis? To what extent must civil rights and civil liberties give way to the needs of national security? May individual liberty be restricted in the name of preserving liberty for all?

Judge Denny Chin is a United States Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He was sworn in on April 26, 2010.

Judge Chin graduated from Princeton University magna cum laude in 1975 and received his law degree from Fordham Law School in 1978. After clerking for the Honorable Henry F. Werker, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, he was associated with the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell from 1980 to 1982. He served as an assistant United States attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1982 until 1986, when he and two of his colleagues from the U.S. Attorney’s Office started a law firm, Campbell, Patrick & Chin. In 1990, he joined Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C., where he specialized in labor and employment law.

From September 13, 1994, through April 23, 2010, Chin served as a United States district judge for the Southern District of New York. He presided over both civil and criminal cases, including cases involving Megan’s Law, the Million Youth March, Al Franken’s use of the phrase “Fair and Balanced” in the title of a book, the Naked Cowboy, the Google Books settlement, and the United Nations Oil for Food Program. He also presided over the trial of an Afghan warlord charged with conspiring to import heroin and the guilty plea and sentencing of financier Bernard L. Madoff.

Judge Chin has taught writing at Fordham Law School since 1986. While in private practice, he provided extensive pro bono representation to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. He served as President of the Asian American Bar Association of New York from January 1992 through January 1994. He has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, including Hartley House, Care for the Homeless, the Clinton Housing Associaiton, the Prospect Park Environmental Center, and the Fordham Law School Alumni Association.

Judge Chin was born in Hong Kong. He was the first Asian American appointed a United States District Judge outside the Ninth Circuit. He is the only active federal appellate judge of Asian American descent in the country.

Judge Chin is married to Kathy Hirata Chin, also a member of the Princeton Class of 1975. They have two sons, including Paul, a member of the Princeton Class of 2006.

Supported by the Office of the Provost. Cosponsored by the Center for African American Studies, the Department of English, the Program in Law and Public Affairs, and the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.