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Bar Leaders, Superior Court Judges Visit Wyoming Japanese American Incarceration Site

August 03, 2023

By Ray Locker

Heart Mountain

In late July, a delegation of judges and lawyers, including four past presidents of the D.C. Bar, visited Heart Mountain, Wyoming, the site of a former incarceration camp for Japanese Americans that imprisoned approximately 14,000 people without due process during World War II.

The delegation, led by Bar Association of the District of Columbia (BADC) President Rawle Andrews Jr., met with local lawyers and judges from Cody, Wyoming, to share their perspectives on the legal system.

The group was also joined by D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring and other Superior Court judges, including Kelly Higashi, the first Japanese American judge on the court and whose mother’s family was incarcerated during the war in four separate camps in Oregon, California, and Arkansas.

The delegation spent two days at the site of the former incarceration camp, which is operated by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation led by Shirley Ann Higuchi, a former D.C. Bar president whose parents met as children during the war at Heart Mountain.

Heart Mountain

During their visit, the delegation viewed the museum’s permanent exhibit, watched a film by Academy Award-winning director Steven Okazaki depicting the camp experience, and toured the new temporary exhibit about the allyship between Black and Japanese American residents of the Los Angeles neighborhood called J-Flats.

The group also met with 35 teachers from around the country who were attending an educational workshop, sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, about the Japanese American incarceration.

Higashi stayed after the trip to attend the annual Heart Mountain Pilgrimage, in which former incarcerees and their families return to the site for panel discussions, talks about their Japanese American identity, and tours of the camp’s restored facilities.

Photos courtesy of Ray Locker, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation

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