Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Japanese-American Hero Dies

Judge Robert Takasugi recently died. Post-9-11, he was one of the few judges in the country that demanded our government follow the Constitution.

When weighed against a fundamental constitutional right which defines our very existence, the argument for national security should not serve as an excuse for obliterating the Constitution.

[from United States v. ROYARAHMANI (June 2, 2002, Central District of California)]

Perhaps Judge Takasugi's skepticism had something to do with being interned by the American government during WWII.

According to the NY Times obit (Bruce Weber, 8/8/09), Judge Takasugi "never forgot the experience of internment":

“I was a consequence of history...In 1942, as an 11-year-old child born in Tacoma, Washington, I became a prisoner of war imprisoned in an American-style concentration camp by the country of my birth. I vividly recall the military guard towers manned by armed soldiers surrounding the perimeter of the high-fenced walls which separated us from the free world. There were no formal charges, no right to face and confront the accusers, nor a right to a trial or hearing. Imprisonment was based on the accident of ancestry.

“From this unfortunate history, a lesson should have been learned that under our Constitution, a truly free government must dedicate its powers to and for the people, and that our representatives must adopt this commitment with integrity as a nondelegable duty and responsibility.”

Even though it took some time, Judge Takasugi is a living embodiment of America's promise: freedom to all, regardless of national origin and race. I am glad he lived long enough to see the American public catch up to him. I just wish he had the opportunity to write an opinion on Guantanamo Bay.

Bonus: Justice William Douglas from Laird v. Tatum (1972), emphasis added:

[S]ubmissiveness is not our heritage. The First Amendment was designed to allow rebellion to remain as our heritage. The Constitution was designed to keep government off the backs of the people. The Bill of Rights was added to keep the precincts of belief and expression, of the press, of political and social activities free from surveillance. The Bill of Rights was designed to keep agents of government and official eavesdroppers away from assemblies of people. The aim was to allow men to be free and independent and to assert their rights against government. There can be no influence more paralyzing of that objective than Army surveillance. When an intelligence officer looks over every nonconformist's shoulder in the library, or walks invisibly by his side in a picket line, or infiltrates his club, the America once extolled as the voice of liberty heard around the world no longer is cast in the image which Jefferson and Madison designed, but more in the [Soviet] Russian image."

No comments: