Happy Constitution Day 2019! Our Constitution is 232 Years Old Today!

The United States Constitution was signed by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 232  years ago today on September 17, 1787.

On February 21, 1787, Congress called on each state legislature to send delegates to a convention “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation in ways that, when approved by Congress and the states, would render the federal constitution adequate to the  exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union.”

To amend the Articles into a workable government, 74 delegates from the twelve states were named by their state legislatures; 55 delegates showed up, and 39 delegates eventually signed.

The Preamble of this history-changing document makes clear why it was written: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

As United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, explained, “What makes the Constitution worthy of our commitment? First and foremost, the answer is our freedom. It is, quite simply, the most powerful vision of freedom ever expressed. It’s also the world’s shortest and oldest national constitution, neither so rigid as to be stifling, nor so malleable as to be devoid of meaning. Our Constitution has been an inspiration that changed the trajectory of world history for the perpetual benefit of mankind. In 1787, no country in the world had ever allowed its citizens to select their own form of government, much less to select a democratic government. What was revolutionary when it was written, and what continues to inspire the world today, is that the Constitution put governance in the hands of the people.”

It is of the nature of constitutions that their meaning evolves over time and in newly encountered situtions.  As founding UCI Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote in the University of Chicago Law Review, “[t]he Constitution inevitably must be interpreted. There are countless issues — such as whether the president can fire cabinet officials or rescind treaties or assert executive privilege — where the document is silent, but a constitutional answer is necessary.  So much of the Constitution is written in broad language that must be given meaning and applied to specific situations. . .”

It is my hope that one day soon the Supreme Court will recognize that in order to ensure and protect our democracy, we must get unlimited and unaccountable money out of politics, and that there must be limits on the amount of money that individuals, corporations, or other organizations can spend to support or attack political candidates or to influence government policies.

It is my hope, too, that one day soon the Equal Rights Amendment will be adopted so that women will at long last be accorded full and equal rights in the United States.

In fact, our Constitution provides the means to make these changes and improvements in our government and our political process.

Our Constitution remains our best hope of “We the People” forming an even “more perfect Union.”

Tell the Irvine City Council to Agendize the Proposal to Educate Residents and Law Enforcement about California’s Red Flag Law and Gun Violence Restraining Orders

California has a “red flag law” that allows family members or police to seek a court order to temporarily remove guns from mentally unstable people, but too few are aware of it. I have asked the mayor to place my proposal that Irvine educate our residents and police about California’s red flag law and its appropriate use on the City Council agenda. 

Here is the memo that I sent to the mayor:

“​Re: Reducing Gun Violence and California’s Red Flag Law

After the May 2014 mass shooting in Isla Vista in which a mentally unstable young man killed six people and injured fourteen others before killing himself, California passed a ‘red flag law’ that empowers family members and law enforcement officers to petition a court to obtain a “Gun Violence Restraining Order” (GVRO) to temporarily limit a person’s access to guns if they are an immediate and present danger of harming themselves or others.

Red flags laws have now been passed in 17 states and several more states are considering such laws. Red flag laws have been supported by both Republicans and Democrats. In the aftermath of the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, President Trump declared that ‘We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. . . That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.’

Red flag laws are not just meant to prevent mass shootings. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Nearly two-thirds of the gun deaths in the United States — over 22,000 per year — are suicides. Eighty-three percent of suicide attempts by gun succeed; suicide attempts by other means are fatal only 5% of the time. A GRVO can save lives by temporarily preventing a loved one from accessing the most lethal form of suicide until the crisis passes, giving them a chance to get the help they need.

But for red flag laws to be effective, it is important that members of the public and local police officers are aware of the law and encouraged to obtain Gun Violence Restraining Orders when appropriate. Unfortunately, awareness of our red flag law is not nearly as widespread as it should be.

​I am proposing that the Irvine City Council work with City Staff and the Irvine Police Department to devise and implement a public awareness program regarding California’s red flag law, hold training sessions on the red flag law for members of the Irvine Police Department, and direct our law enforcement officers to use GVRO’s when appropriate.

I am requesting that this item be placed on the agenda for the Irvine City Council.”

Due to the City Council’s new restrictive agenda policy, which prohibits an item from being placed on the agenda unless the mayor or two city council members agree to do so, I can not place this item on the agenda without the support of the mayor or other councilmembers.  Accordingly, I have asked Irvine Mayor Christina Shea to agree to put this proposal on the Irvine City Council agenda.

Red flag laws save lives.

A recent study by the U.C. Davis School of Medicine found that California’s red flag law has significantly reduced gun violence. According to Laura Cutilletta, legal director of the Giffords Law Center, California’s red flag law acts as a sort of timeout, so someone in psychological distress can get counseling while their fitness to possess a gun is evaluated.  “It’s a way to allow for temporary removal of firearms in a situation just like this: where somebody has made threats, where they have been expelled from school because of those threats, they’re in counseling, and parents or the school or whoever it is understands that this person poses a threat,” she explained.

OC Sheriff’s deputies in Mission Viejo successfully petitioned the court for a Gun Violence Restraining Order and temporarily removed over 22 firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition from the home. All the firearms were legally obtained by the suspect who was arrested for domestic violence.

However, the effectiveness of the red flag law has been limited by the lack of awareness of the law on the part of both the public and the police.  Too often, neither the public nor the local police are aware of or encouraged to obtain Gun Violence Restraining Orders.

A national organization, Speak for Safety, has formed for the specific purpose of raising awareness of the Gun Violence Restraining Order as a tool to remove firearms and ammunition from people who are an immediate danger to themselves or others.

Recently, deputies from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department  a domestic violence victim in Mission Viejo who feared for her family’s safety. Deputies petitioned the courts for a Gun Violence Restraining Order and an Emergency Protective Order. They temporarily removed over 22 firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition from the home. All the firearms were legally obtained by the suspect who was arrested for domestic violence.

But too often, neither family members nor law enforcement personnel know that such a gun violence prevention tool exists, even in states, like California, that have very effective GVRO laws on the books.

This the reason I have proposed  that the Irvine City Council work with City Staff and the Irvine Police Department to devise and implement a public awareness and education program regarding California’s red flag law, hold training sessions on the red flag law for members of the Irvine Police Department, and direct our law enforcement officers to use GVROs whenever appropriate.

Please join me in this effort by contacting the Mayor and the Irvine City Council and urging them to support this common sense proposal to use California’s existing red flag law to prevent gun violence and save lives in Irvine.

Let’s Reduce Gun Violence By Educating the Public and Training Our Police to Use California’s “Red Flag” Law

California has some of the country’s strictest gun control laws; these laws are likely the reason that California has one of the lowest overall gun deaths per capita in the nation.

Yet, as the recent mass shooting in Gilroy shows, our state laws are not enough, by themselves, to prevent our residents from becoming victims of gun violence. In order to better protect our residents in California from gun violence, two more crucial steps need to be taken.

One of these steps — and by far the most important — is that Federal gun regulations must catch-up to California’s. 

The assault rifle used in the mass shooting in Gilroy is banned in California, but it is legal in our neighboring state of Nevada, where it was legally bought by the killer three weeks before the shooting.

The killer also had several high capacity magazines for the weapon, which are also illegal in California, but not in Nevada where they were bought.

Until the federal government finds the courage to defy the NRA and the gun dealer lobby, it will be very difficult to prevent these weapons of war from other states from being brought into and used in California.

For this reason, national action on gun violence should be advocated by everyone in California who cares about reducing gun violence.  Politicians who support the current president’s policy of giving veto power over federal gun regulations to the gun dealer lobby are undermining the effectiveness of California’s gun laws. For California to be safe, assault rifles and large capacity magazines must be outlawed in all of the states.

But another important step can be taken now, by us, even at the local level. That step is to inform and educate the public — and train our police officers — on the effective use of California’s gun regulations that are already on the books.

Perhaps the most important of these gun regulations is California’s “red flag” law, which empowers family members and law enforcement officers to petition courts to obtain a “Gun Violence Restraining Order” (GVRO) to temporarily limit a person’s access to guns if they are an “immediate and present danger” of harming themselves or others.

In 2014, California became the first state to let family members ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a threat.  The “Gun Violence Restraining Order” law (California Penal Code Section 18100 et sec), modeled after domestic violence restraining orders, allows police or family members to obtain a judge’s order to disarm a gun owner they fear will turn violent. The order requires the gun owner to surrender all firearms for 21 days, and can be extended to a full year after a hearing.

The California legislature took action after a mentally ill man killed six students and wounded 13 others near the University of California, Santa Barbara, before killing himself. Authorities were legally unable to confiscate the weapons of the killer, despite his family’s having expressed concerns to authorities that he would become violent.

California’s law also empowers police to petition for the protective orders, which can require authorities to remove firearms for up to one year. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have since adopted similar laws.

Red flag laws save lives.

A recent study by the U.C. Davis School of Medicine found that California’s red flag law has significantly reduced gun violence.

According to Laura Cutilletta, legal director of the Giffords Law Center, California’s red flag law acts as a sort of timeout, so someone in psychological distress can get counseling while their fitness to possess a gun is evaluated.  “It’s a way to allow for temporary removal of firearms in a situation just like this: where somebody has made threats, where they have been expelled from school because of those threats, they’re in counseling, and parents or the school or whoever it is understands that this person poses a threat,” she explained.

However, the effectiveness of the red flag law has been limited by the lack of awareness of the law on the part of both the public and the police.  Too often, neither the public nor the local police are aware of or encouraged to obtain Gun Violence Restraining Orders.

A national organization, Speak for Safety, has formed for the specific purpose of raising awareness of the Gun Violence Restraining Order as a tool to remove firearms and ammunition from people who are an immediate danger to themselves or others.

Too often, neither family members nor law enforcement personnel know that such a gun violence prevention tool exists, even in states, like California, that have very effective GVRO laws on the books.

San Diego is an exception.  Since 2017, San Diego County has issued more than 300 orders, more than any other county in the state. They have been used to intervene in escalating cases of domestic violence, to prevent potential suicides, and with people with potentially dangerous mental illness. In the end, the police have seized more than 400 weapons and nearly 80,000 rounds of ammunition. As San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott has stated, ““We have no problem with responsible people having guns,” she said. “Our concern are the people who are no longer responsible. That’s when we’ll step in.”

Student march on Harvard Avenue in Irvine for stricter gun control. Photo: Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG).

The San Diego City Attorney’s office has been given a grant by the State of California to provide this training.  According to the San Diego City Attorney’s office, “Using case studies, we explain ways to apply the law, describe the process for obtaining a GVRO, and address complex issues concerning domestic violence, juveniles and individuals with neurological disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. We also devote a significant amount of time to the topics of service, search warrants and seizure (firearms). The curriculum is directed at those responsible for implementing and coordinating a GVRO program at their agencies. Typically, all forms of law enforcement and city attorneys, with law enforcement clients, would directly benefit from this event. We have received nothing but positive feedback, increased interest and requests for more training from the law enforcement agencies and city attorneys we have worked with so far.”

You can see San Diego’s slide presentation about California’s red flag law here.

I believe that Irvine should also be a leader in utilizing the common sense gun control regulations that are already on the books.

Therefore, I will propose that the Irvine City Council work with City Staff and the Irvine Police Department to devise and implement a public awareness and education program regarding California’s red flag law, hold training sessions on the red flag law for members of the Irvine Police Department, and direct our law enforcement officers to use GVROs whenever appropriate.  We should contact both the San Diego City Attorney’s Office and the State of California about providing us with assistance with red flag training, procedures, and protocols.

Please join me in this effort by contacting the Mayor and the Irvine City Council and urging them to support this common sense proposal to use California’s existing red flag law to prevent gun violence and save lives in Irvine.

Everyone who knows someone who may be at risk of hurting themselves or others with a gun, should know how to “Speak for Safety” with a GVRO.

Sign our petition for common sense gun regulation here.

 

 

Yes, Let’s Create a Gun Violence Task Force — And Let’s Also Have a Real Discussion about How to Prevent Mass Shootings and Gun Violence

Based on her recent social media post, it appears that in the wake of three recent mass shootings (in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio) leaving at least 45 people dead and many dozens more injured, Irvine Mayor Christina Shea intends to create a task force to discuss what we can do in Irvine to prevent gun violence.

Significantly, Mayor Shea asks that we not turn this discussion into a “partisan” issue, and that we not hold local, state, or national politicians responsible for their actions, or lack of action, leading to the proliferation of mass shootings and gun violence.

I fully support a discussion of how our City Council can help prevent Irvine from becoming the site of the next gun violence atrocity. This discussion is long overdue. Our nation is suffering from a gun violence emergency.

But the discussion must not be a sham, and not be muzzled from the very beginning by preventing mention of the fact that Republican politicians — at every level of government — have sided with gun dealers and the NRA over the safety of our communities and families, and have stubbornly blocked Congress from enacting meaningful, common sense federal gun regulation.

We must also be willing to acknowledge the fact that President Donald Trump has incited violence and manipulated racial hatred in ways that many of us had hoped belonged to our tragic past. And we must explicitly reject and condemn Trump’s racist rhetoric.

As President Obama recently said, as elected officials and community leaders, we must reject the rhetoric of those “who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.” Such language “has no place in our politics and our public life” and it is time “for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”

Let’s have a real discussion of mass shootings and gun violence — without any attempts at mirco-management by the Mayor or self-serving limitations on that discussion being imposed in advance by local politicians who are afraid that the public is fed up with the Republican Party’s spinelessness in the face of the NRA and the racist rhetoric of Trumpism, and their policy of creating diversions after each mass shooting rather than enacting real, common sense, gun control regulation.

I also ask that this Task Force be comprised of and led by real experts in the field of gun violence prevention. We have many such experts here in Irvine on the faculty of UCI and the UCI School of Law.  Our task force should not be solely composed of — or led by — politicians with an interest in self-promotion or self-protection, or protecting their political allies from justified and necessary criticism.

In addition, I suggest that the Irvine City Council immediately direct our Irvine Police Department to promote awareness of California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) law, which allows family members and law enforcement to seek the temporary removal of firearms from someone they believe poses a danger to themselves or others.

While GVROs have been called “the best tool in the state of California for responding to a threat of gun violence,” they are rarely used because residents and law enforcement remain largely unaware of the law and its potential to help stop a crime before it has been committed.

You can see a video presentation of California GVROs here:

I also propose that the City of Irvine and the Irvine Police Department remind residents about California’s safe storage laws requiring that guns be locked away from minors and anyone who should not have access to them.

I look forward to a lively, positive and open-minded discussion of what we can do in Irvine to prevent mass shootings and gun violence, including an awareness and educational campaign about GVROs, issuing official statements from our City Council calling on President Trump to stop his inflammatory rhetoric demonizing immigrants, Muslims, and people of color, and calling on Congress to pass common sense gun regulations relating to universal background checks, military-style assault rifles, and high capacity magazines.

 

Stand Up for What is Right: Celebrating the 100th Birthday of Fred T. Korematsu

“If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.” — Fred T. Korematsu (1919-2005)

Today is the 100th Birthday of Fred Korematsu, a Californian who challenged the constitutionality of the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War.

Although Koresatsu lost his case in 1944, his fight against racism and for justice has been vindicated by history.

Let us celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fred Korematsu’s birth by learning his story, affirming our rejection of racism, and committing ourselves to stand up for what is right.

Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu was born in Oakland, California, on January 30, 1919, the third of four sons to Japanese-American parents Kakusaburo Korematsu and Kotsui Aoki, who immigrated to the United States in 1905. He attended public schools, participated in the Castlemont High School (Oakland, California) tennis and swim teams, and worked in his family’s flower nursery in nearby San Leandro, California.

When called for military duty under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, Korematsu was rejected by the U.S. Navy due to stomach ulcers. Instead, he trained to become a welder in order to contribute his services to the defense effort. First, he worked as a welder at a shipyard. He went in one day to find his timecard missing; his coworkers hastily explained to him that he was Japanese so therefore he was not allowed to work there. He then found a new job, but was fired after a week when his supervisor returned from an extended vacation to find him working there. Because of his Japanese descent, Korematsu lost all employment completely following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On March 27, 1942, General John L. DeWitt, commander of the Western Defense Area, prohibited Japanese Americans from leaving the limits of Military Area No. 1, in preparation for their eventual evacuation to internment camps. Korematsu underwent plastic surgery on his eyelids in an unsuccessful attempt to pass as a Caucasian, changed his name to Clyde Sarah[13][14] and claimed to be of Spanish and Hawaiian heritage.

On May 3, 1942, when General DeWitt ordered Japanese Americans to report on May 9 to Assembly Centers as a prelude to being removed to the internment camps, Korematsu refused and went into hiding in the Oakland area. He was arrested on a street corner in San Leandro on May 30, 1942. Shortly after Korematsu’s arrest, Ernest Besig, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union in northern California, asked him whether he would be willing to use his case to test the legality of the Japanese American internment. Korematsu agreed.

Korematsu felt that “people should have a fair trial and a chance to defend their loyalty at court in a democratic way, because in this situation, people were placed in imprisonment without any fair trial.” On June 12, 1942, Korematsu had his trial date and was given $5,000 bail (equivalent to $76,670.06 in 2018). After Korematsu’s arraignment on June 18, 1942, Besig posted bail and he and Korematsu attempted to leave. When met by military police, Besig told Korematsu to go with them. The military police took Korematsu to the Presidio. Korematsu was tried and convicted in federal court on September 8, 1942, for a violation of Public Law No. 503, which criminalized the violations of military orders issued under the authority of Executive Order 9066, and was placed on five years’ probation.

He was taken from the courtroom and returned to the Tanforan Assembly Center, and thereafter he and his family were placed in the Central Utah War Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah. As an unskilled laborer, he was eligible to receive only $12 per month (equivalent to $184.01 in 2018) for working eight-hour days at the camp. He was placed in a horse stall with a single light bulb, and later said “jail was better than this.”

When Korematsu’s family was moved to the Topaz internment camp, he later recalled feeling isolated because his imprisoned compatriots recognized him and many, if not most, of them felt that if they talked to him they would also be seen as troublemakers.

Korematsu then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which granted review on March 27, 1943, but upheld the original verdict on January 7, 1944. He appealed again and brought his case to the United States Supreme Court, which granted review on March 27, 1944. On December 18, 1944, the Court issued Korematsu v. United States, a 6–3 decision authored by Justice Hugo Black, in which the Court held that compulsory exclusion, though constitutionally suspect, was justified during circumstances of “emergency and peril.”

Dissenting Justice Frank Murphy criticized what he called a “legalization of racism. Justice Murphy added: “Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life. It is unattractive in any setting, but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States. All residents of this nation are kin in some way by blood or culture to a foreign land. Yet they are primarily and necessarily a part of the new and distinct civilization of the United States. They must, accordingly, be treated at all times as the heirs of the American experiment, and as entitled to all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Dissenting Justice Robert H. Jackson, who later served as Chief US Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, wrote that “Korematsu was born on our soil, of parents born in Japan. The Constitution makes him a citizen of the United States by nativity and a citizen of California by residence. No claim is made that he is not loyal to this country. There is no suggestion that apart from the matter involved here he is not law abiding and well disposed. Korematsu, however, has been convicted of an act not commonly a crime. It consists merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived. […] [H]is crime would result, not from anything he did, said, or thought, different than they, but only in that he was born of different racial stock. Now, if any fundamental assumption underlies our system, it is that guilt is personal and not inheritable. Even if all of one’s antecedents had been convicted of treason, the Constitution forbids its penalties to be visited upon him. But here is an attempt to make an otherwise innocent act a crime merely because this prisoner is the son of parents as to whom he had no choice, and belongs to a race from which there is no way to resign.”

After being released from the camp in Utah, Korematsu had to move east since the law would not allow former internees to move back westward. He moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he continued to fight racism. He still knew there were inequalities among the Japanese, since he experienced them in his everyday life. He found work repairing water tanks in Salt Lake City, but after three months on the job, he discovered he was being paid half of what his white coworkers were being paid. He told his boss that this was unfair and asked to be paid the same amount, but his boss only threatened to call the police and try to get him arrested just for being Japanese, so he left his job.

1942 editorial cartoon by Theodor Seuss Geisel (later author Dr. Seuss) depicting Japanese-Americans on the West Coast as prepared to conduct sabotage against the US.

After this incident, Korematsu lost hope, remaining quiet for over thirty years. His own daughter did not find out about what her father did until she was in high school. He moved to Detroit, Michigan, where his younger brother lived, and where he worked as a draftsman until 1949. He married Kathryn Pearson in Detroit on October 12, 1946. They returned to Oakland to visit his family in 1949 because his mother was ill. They did not intend to stay, but decided to after Kathryn became pregnant with their first child, Karen. His daughter was born in 1950, and a son, Ken, in 1954.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford signed a proclamation formally terminating Executive Order 9066 and apologizing for the internment, stated: “We now know what we should have known then—not only was that evacuation wrong but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans. On the battlefield and at home the names of Japanese-Americans have been and continue to be written in history for the sacrifices and the contributions they have made to the well-being and to the security of this, our common Nation.”

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed a special commission to investigate the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, which concluded that the decisions to remove those of Japanese ancestry to prison camps occurred because of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which had been sponsored by Representative Norman Mineta and Senator Alan K. Simpson. It provided financial redress of $20,000 for each surviving detainee, totaling $1.2 billion.

In the early 1980s, while researching a book on internment cases, lawyer and University of California, San Diego professor Peter Irons came across evidence that Charles Fahy, the Solicitor General of the United States who argued Korematsu v. United States before the Supreme Court, had deliberately suppressed reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and military intelligence which concluded that Japanese-American citizens posed no security risk. These documents revealed that the military had lied to the Supreme Court, and that government lawyers had willingly made false arguments. Irons concluded that the Supreme Court’s decision was invalid since it was based on unsubstantiated assertions, distortions and misrepresentations. Along with a team of lawyers headed by Dale Minami, Irons petitioned for writs of error coram nobis with the federal courts, seeking to overturn Korematsu’s conviction.

On November 10, 1983, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of U.S. District Court in San Francisco formally vacated the conviction. Korematsu testified before Judge Patel, “I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color.” He also said, “If anyone should do any pardoning, I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese-American people.” Judge Patel’s ruling cleared Korematsu’s name, but was incapable of overturning the Supreme Court’s decision.

President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, to Korematsu in 1998, saying, “In the long history of our country’s constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls: Plessy, Brown, Parks … to that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu.” That year, Korematsu served as the Grand Marshal of San Francisco’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival parade.

A member and Elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, Korematsu was twice President of the San Leandro Lions Club, and for 15 years a volunteer with Boy Scouts of America, San Francisco Bay Council.

Korematsu spoke out after September 11, 2001, on how the United States government should not let the same thing happen to people of Middle-Eastern descent as what happened to Japanese Americans. When prisoners were detained at Guantanamo Bay for too long a period, in Korematsu’s opinion, he filed two amicus curiae briefs with the Supreme Court and warned them not to repeat the mistakes of the Japanese internment.

From 2001 until his death in 2005, Korematsu served on the Constitution Project’s bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee. Discussing racial profiling in 2004, he warned, “No one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy.”

Fred Korematsu died of respiratory failure at his daughter’s home in Marin County, California, on March 30, 2005. One of the last things Korematsu said was, “I’ll never forget my government treating me like this. And I really hope that this will never happen to anybody else because of the way they look, if they look like the enemy of our country.” He also urged others to “protest, but not with violence, and don’t be afraid to speak up. One person can make a difference, even if it takes forty years.”

In 2018, in Trump v. Hawaii, the Supreme Court expressly declared that Korematsu’s case was wrongly decided. Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—’has no place in law under the Constitution,” quoting Justice Jackson’s dissent in Korematsu v. United States.

Happy Constitution Day!

screen-shot-2013-09-16-at-6-29-04-pm The United States Constitution was signed by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 229 years ago today on September 17, 1787.

On February 21, 1787, Congress called on each state legislature to send delegates to a convention “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation in ways that, when approved by Congress and the states, would render the federal constitution adequate to the  exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union.”

To amend the Articles into a workable government, 74 delegates from the twelve states were named by their state legislatures; 55 delegates showed up, and 39 delegates eventually signed.

The Preamble of this history-changing document makes clear why it was written: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

d5073bb68808c8dd92cbcefedb2da43e

As United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, explained, “What makes the Constitution worthy of our commitment? First and foremost, the answer is our freedom. It is, quite simply, the most powerful vision of freedom ever expressed. It’s also the world’s shortest and oldest national constitution, neither so rigid as to be stifling, nor so malleable as to be devoid of meaning. Our Constitution has been an inspiration that changed the trajectory of world history for the perpetual benefit of mankind. In 1787, no country in the world had ever allowed its citizens to select their own form of government, much less to select a democratic government. What was revolutionary when it was written, and what continues to inspire the world today, is that the Constitution put governance in the hands of the people.”

It is of the nature of constitutions that their meaning evolves over time and in newly encountered situtions.  As UCI Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote in the University of Chicago Law Review, “[t]he Constitution inevitably must be interpreted. There are countless issues — such as whether the president can fire cabinet officials or rescind treaties or assert executive privilege — where the document is silent, but a constitutional answer is necessary.  So much of the Constitution is written in broad language that must be given meaning and applied to specific situations. . .”

It is my hope that one day soon the Supreme Court will recognize that in order to ensure and protect our democracy, we must get unlimited and unaccountable money out of politics, and that there must be limits on the amount of money that individuals, corporations, or other organizations can spend to support or attack political candidates or to influence government policies.

It is my hope, too, that one day soon the Equal Rights Amendment will be adopted so that women will at long last be accorded full and equal rights in the United States.

In fact, our Constitution provides the means to make these changes and improvements in our government and our political process.

Our Constitution remains our best hope of “We the People” forming an even “more perfect Union.”