Eric K. Yamamoto

  • Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice
  • Regents’ Medalist for Excellence in Teaching


  • BA University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 1975
  • JD UC Berkeley School of Law 1978


Eric K. Yamamoto is an award-winning, internationally-recognized law professor at the University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law. He is known for his legal work and scholarship on racial justice, with an emphasis on redress for historic injustice.  He also specializes in civil procedure and complex litigation.  For his teaching, mentoring, scholarship and justice work, in April 2012, he was appointed to a prestigious new professorship:  The Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice.

Professor Yamamoto has received eight outstanding law teaching awards, including the University of Hawai'i's highest award the 2005 Regents Medal for Teaching Excellence and the Society of American Law Teachers' nation-wide award as Outstanding Law Teacher for 2006.  In 2012 the Consortium of Asian Pacific American Law Professors established the annual “Professor Eric Yamamoto Emerging Scholar Award” to be bestowed each year upon a most promising legal scholar.  Professor Yamamoto has also received awards for his work on civil rights and social justice -- most recently the 2009 American Board of Trial Lawyers “Ha`heo” Award (outstanding community law service); the 2008 “American Courage Award” from the Asian American Justice Center (civil rights consortium); the Equal Justice Society's 2007 inaugural “Scholar Advocate Award;” the Japanese American Citizens League - Honolulu's 2006 “Distinguished Public Service Award” (with Chris Iijima); and the 2004 Consumer Lawyers “Patsy Mink Social Justice Award.”

In 1984 Professor Yamamoto served as coram nobis co-counsel to Fred Korematsu in the successful reopening the infamous WWII Japanese American internment case, Korematsu v. U.S. (contributing to congressional reparations). He worked on the legal teams for Filipino American Manuel Fragante in his accent discrimination appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court (Fragante v. City) and for Native Hawaiian Alice Aiwohi in her successful Homelands breach of trust class action resulting in a major state reparations settlement (Ka`ai`ai v. Drake).  He also served as procedure consultant on the African American reparations case Alexander v. Oklahoma and the Philippines political torture class action In re Marcos Litigation.  His legal work also includes authorship of amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, including Office of Hawaiian Affairs v. HCDCH (Hawaiian lands), Grutter v. Michigan (affirmative action) and Rasul v. Bush (post-9/11 Guantanamo Bay mass detention), as well as briefs to the Ninth Circuit in Korab v. Hawai`i (Micronesian healthcare) and Doe v. Kamehameha (Native Hawaiian education).

Professor Yamamoto has published two books and over seventy book chapters and law review articles. His first book on Interracial Justice (conflict and reconciliation among racial communities) received the Gustavus Meyers Award for Outstanding Books on Social Justice for 2000. His second book, Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment (2nd ed. in progress), co-authored with Chon, Izumi, Kang and Wu, received national attention in light of its relevance to the post-September 11th tension between national security and civil liberties in America. His recent articles include: “Korean Comfort Women Redress 2012:  A View From the United States” (J. of Korean L.); “Redress and Salience of Economic Justice” (Oxford Forum on Pub. Policy); “Reframing Redress:  A `Social Healing Through Justice’ Approach to United States-Native Hawaiian and Japan-Ainu Reconciliation Initiatives” (Berkeley Asian Am. L. J.); "American Reparations Theory and Practice at the Crossroads" (Cal. West. L. Rev.); "From Heart Mountain to Iraq: Lt. Watada and a Long Line of Resistance" (UCLA Amerasia J.); "White(House) Lies: Why the Public Must Compel the Courts to Hold the President Accountable for National Security Abuses" (Duke J. of Law and Contemp. Probs); "Contextual Strict Scrutiny" (Howard L.J.); and “Electronic-Discovery:  A Call for a New Rules Regime for the Hawai`i Courts.” (Haw. L. Rev.).   His earlier article, "Critical Race Praxis: Race Theory and Political Lawyering" in the Michigan Law Review, was the centerpiece of a law review symposium on strategies for connecting racial justice scholarship with frontline advocacy.

In Summer 2012 he spoke at the Harvard Law School on implicit bias in the law.  In Spring 2012 he spoke at a forum at Seoul National University Law School on “Redress for the Korean `Comfort Women’ – a U.S. Perspective” and worked with Victim Families through Jeju National University on “Prospects for Social Healing and the Korea Jeju 4.3 Tragedy”.  In Winter 2012 he spoke about the “The Significance of Japanese American Redress to Worldwide Reconciliation Initiatives” at Seattle Law School.  In 2011 Professor Yamamoto delivered the keynote address to the Hawai`i State Bar Association on the “Continuing Relevance of Korematsu” and the keynote to the Nevada State Bar Association on “National Security and Civil Liberties Ten Years After 9/11”.  In the summer 2010 he presented to the Oxford Round Table (Rhodes House) on “Redress and Economic Justice” and to the American Judicature Society’s special committee on “Electronic Discovery”. In fall 2009 he delivered the keynote address at the South Carolina Law School’s conference on “Racial Healing”.  In spring 2008 he was a Distinguished Lecturer at Japan’s Hokkaido University Law School's Advanced Institute for Law & Politics concerning “Japan-Indigenous Ainu Reconciliation”.  In fall 2008 he gave the Mario G. Olmos Justice Lecture at the Berkeley Law School on “Rethinking Reconciliation” and the keynote to the Thelton Henderson Social Justice Center’s conference on Reparations.  In 2007 was a featured speaker at an international conference in France on "Racial Reparations: A Transatlantic Dialogue" and a Scholar-in-Residence at the Berkeley Law School's Henderson Center.  Earlier, for 2002, he served as the Haywood Burns Chair in Civil Rights for New York, and in 2000 he received the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation's Residency Fellowship for international justice scholars in Bellagio, Italy. In 1999 he taught as a visiting professor at his alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.
Outside the classroom he trains law students and new lawyers interested in social justice as part of the national Scholar Advocacy pilot project he created with Professor Susan Serrano. He is a founding member of the Equal Justice Society and speaks regularly across the country and internationally on “social healing through justice.”