Colorado Supreme Court
Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel
Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.
Conference room dedicated to Minoru Yasui
The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel chose the crusading Denver attorney who deliberately defied a curfew imposed on Japanese-Americans along the West Coast in the early 1940s.
By JAMES CARLSON
This Spring, the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel installed a new plaque memorializing its admissions conference room for the late Denver attorney Minoru Yasui. Attorney Regulation Counsel Jim Coyle made the announcement in September 2015; the plaque was hung in March 2016.
Yasui was one of Colorado’s fiercest defenders of the rule of law, but he was almost denied admission before he even began practicing.
On March 28, 1942, Yasui deliberately violated a military curfew imposed on Japanese-Americans along the West Coast. He later wrote, “If the government unlawfully curtails the rights of any person, the damage is done not only to that individual person but to the whole society.”
Yasui was arrested and housed in an internment camp for seven months. In November 1942, a judge convicted Yasui, stripped him of U.S. citizenship and placed him in solitary confinement for the next nine months while he awaited his appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually upheld the decision.
After moving to Denver, Yasui passed the Colorado Bar Exam in 1945. Despite obtaining the highest score that year, he was denied admission due to his previous criminal conviction. He appealed the decision to the Colorado Supreme Court and in 1946 won the right to practice law.
Yasui spent the next four decades crusading for civil and human rights. He founded or led numerous organizations devoted to underserved populations. Several regional and national scholarships bear his name. And in 2015, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Yasui’s legacy in Colorado serves as a reminder that every step of the judicial system, including the attorney admissions process, should strive for substantive equality and freedom from discrimination.
James Carlson is the Information Resources Coordinator at the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.