Appellate Courts Outreach & Education

Historic Oral Argument and Lecture Series

The Fourth Appellate District, Division 2, instituted the Justice John G. Gabbert Historic Oral Argument and Lecture Series, a series of reenactments of historic oral arguments of cases that shaped and defined the country, in 2009 in honor of the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Fourth Appellate District in 1929 and to honor the 100th birthday of retired Associate Justice John G. Gabbert. Presiding Justice Ramirez explained, “In the history of this country, there have been a number of major court decisions that set into motion events that would change the face of the nation. Many of them have been good, even great, decisions, progressively realizing the founding fathers’ ideals of due process, equal protection, and liberty. But there have also been bad decisions, decisions that in retrospect represent retreats in the overall advance toward these goals. We remind ourselves of these decisions in the spirit of ‘recovering history and recovering from history’ in the words of Karen L. Ishizuka’s book ‘Lost and Found’ about the Japanese American incarceration.” The reenactments were accompanied by historical, legal, and personal perspectives and followed by a reception and open house with displays and videos of the related events and time periods.

Korematsu v. US

The inaugural program, honoring the courage and patriotism of the Japanese-American internees in War Relocation Centers during World War II, revisited the oral argument in Korematsu v. US (1944) 323 U.S. 214. Presiding Justice Ramirez said, “Although the Korematsu decision is to be remembered rather than celebrated, the patriotism and courage of the Japanese-American internees is cause for celebration. While Japanese-Americans were herded into detention facilities and stripped of their liberty and property even as their sons, grandsons, and brothers fought in Europe, the internees faced the challenges imposed on them with courage, grace, and dignity. While giving full weight to the opinion’s fallacies, the complete lesson cannot be learned without understanding the wartime context and separation-of-powers rationale that seemed to justify the decision at the time. The Korematsu oral argument re-creation and subsequent discussion, as well as the art display, will appropriately and soberly memorialize the Japanese-American internments while celebrating Japanese-American loyalty to and sacrifice for the United States of America.”

Brown v. Board of Education

The second historic oral argument reenactment took place in August 2011 commemorating Brown v. Board of Education (1954) 347 U.S. 483. Presiding Justice Ramirez introduced the program saying, “In 1951, sixty years ago this year, Oliver L. Brown and 12 other parents filed a class action suit against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, seeking to enroll their children in their neighborhood schools, which were maintained as exclusively white schools by the Board of Education. They were eventually joined before the Supreme Court by parents filing similar lawsuits in three other states. The parents’ causes were vindicated by one of the most important and well known opinions ever issued by the United States Supreme Court. This historic reenactment of the oral argument in Brown will celebrate the courage and perseverance of the children, parents, lawyers, and justices in this famous case, as well as of all those who strove for liberty and equal protection in the Civil Rights Movement.”

Mendez v. Westminster School District of Orange County

The third oral argument reenactment occurred in August 2015 in recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the 50th anniversary of the creation of Division Two of the Fourth Appellate District, and the 70th anniversary of the 1945 filing of the petition in California’s school desegregation case, Mendez v. Westminster School District of Orange County (D. Cal. 1946) 64 F. Supp. 544. Although not as well known as Brown v. Board of Education because it was resolved prior to reaching the U.S. Supreme Court, Mendez preceded Brown by seven years and in some respects paved the way for its more famous successor. Presiding Justice Ramirez noted that “The heart of the lawsuit was five fathers and mothers who stood up for their children who, because of their Hispanic surnames, were denied access to the quality public education they had been promised as American citizens. Because of the courage and resolve of those parents, California became the first state in this country to legally abolish segregation in public schools.”

Nuremberg War Crimes Trials

The fourth reenactment recognized the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, in which 22 high-ranking Nazi defendants were prosecuted for criminal acts responsible for causing World War II and its most heinous atrocities. In commemorating the Nuremberg trials, the Gabbert Series stepped beyond American constitutional law into one of the seminal events in the development of international jurisprudence. Presiding Justice Ramirez commented, “At the heart of the proceedings was the conviction that justice, not revenge, must guide the Allies’ response to the horrific violations of human rights and dignity inherent in Nazi aggression as exemplified by the Holocaust. Out of the Nuremberg process came the principles further developed in the permanent International Criminal Court at the Hague in the Netherlands, which has continued the mission of punishing those who criminally violate international norms of peace and humanity.”

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