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Spence Law Firm Historic Trial 2017

March 22, 2017


The University of Wyoming College of Law will host the third annual Spence Law Firm Historic Trial on Monday, April 10, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. in the College of Law Large Moot Court Room (Room 178).

The College of Law, with collaboration from the Spence Law Firm, created the annual Historical Trial as a fun and interesting way to learn about important historical events through a legal lens, while also providing law students a way to simulate a trial of a high profile case.

The Spence Law Firm Historic Trial is a mock trial created from the facts of a chronicled historic event that never actually produced a trial, but could have. This year’s historical trial explores the conflicting ideologies surrounding the military draft of Japanese Americans incarcerated at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center near Cody and Powell during World War II.

While imprisoned in one of ten internment camps across the nation, Japanese Americans were still subject to the draft. This became a divisive issue in the camps, especially at Heart Mountain. While some believed military service was a chance to show patriotism to the United States, others felt that their constitutional rights should be restored before being required to perform a mandatory service. Those with the latter view formed the Fair Play Committee, which was led by internee Frank Emi.  

Tensions between members of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee and anti-resister internees highlighted the difficulties faced by an entire group of people whose civil liberties were violated.

The fictional libel case of Emi v. Kawai is based upon an anti-Fair Play Committee editorial published by the Heart Mountain Sentinel, the internees’ newspaper. Mr. Emi will be suing the presumed author of the editorial for libel, alleging that the piece contained false statements.

Senator Alan Simpson (B.S. ’54, J.D.’58) will preside over the trial as the judge. Third-year law student Mikole Soto of Sheridan, Wyo. and Cheyenne attorney Terry Mackey (B.A. ’68, J.D. ’70) will represent Frank Emi and the Fair Play Committee. Second-year law student Joel Defebaugh of Casper, Wyo. and Supervising Assistant Attorney General Christyne Martens (J.D. ’10) will represent Nobu Kawai and the Heart Mountain Sentinel.

With the chosen case for this year being both so close to home and in recent history, the College of Law is fortunate to have living descendants of those actually affected by the internment camp participating in the trial, playing witnesses and serving in other roles. Special guests include Grace Kubota Ybarra (who will play the role of her mother, who served as an unofficial secretary for the Fair Play Committee), Jack Ybarra, Josh Watanabe, Kevin Inouye, and Darrell Kunitomi. Professor Aura Newlin (B.A. ’03) of Northwest College in Powell and other officials from the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center have provided substantial assistance to the College of Law on this year’s trial.

In addition to the trial, the College of Law will host as a series of panels paying homage to the 75th anniversary of the World War II internment order that created Heart Mountain and explore parallels between the past and present. Details of the events can be found on the College of Law website.

The mock trial is free and open to the public. An overflow room with a live stream of the trial will be provided in the event of high attendance. Refreshments will be provided at the break.

Contact Us

College of Law

1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3035

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-6416

Fax: 307-766-6417


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