Oyama Legacy

Oyama v. California:

Confronting Alien Land Laws

Oyama Legacy

Following the decision, California halted escheat actions, but it wasn’t until 1952 that the California Supreme Court declared the Alien Land Law unconstitutional for violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. On November 4th, 1956, a measure was passed by California voters to repeal the Alien Land Law. Other restrictive land ownership laws were also rescinded by ballot with the last law being reversed in Washington in 1966.

The Oyama case provided an important precedent for other racial and civil rights cases. In Shelley v. Kraemer, the opinion of Oyama would provide strong support for the fight against restrictive covenants. When preparing the brief for Shelley v. Kraemer, A.L. Wirin attended the conference and it was agreed that the connection between the Alien Land Law and restrictive covenants be acknowledged. The United States Supreme Court determined restrictive covenants a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and cited Oyama as a deciding factor for its decision.

“Only recently this Court had occasion to declare that a state law which denied equal enjoyment of property rights to a designated class of citizens of specified race and ancestry, was not a legitimate exercise of the state's police power but violated the guaranty of the equal protection of the laws. Oyama v. California, 332 U. S. 633 (1948). “
​​​​​​​~ Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948).

Anti-Negro Realty Pact Held Unenforceable, May 3, 1948, The St. Louis Star and Times

The discrimination against Fred based on his parent’s origin of ancestry found in the Oyama decision would contribute to the development of strict scrutiny. The strict scrutiny doctrine would become the Supreme Court’s approach for cases dealing with racial issues and the basis of decisions in many civil rights cases during the 1950s and 60s to strike down local and state segregation laws. 

“A.L. Wirin, in later years, stated that the Oyama and Takahashi cases were the most important he had ever handled "because they were able to establish principles which were the forerunners of the United States Supreme Court cases involving Negroes and affording them the rights to equal treatment and equal protection of the law under the [Fourteenth] Amendment." ​​​​​​​"
~ Greg Robinson and Toni Robinson, " “Korematsu” and Beyond: Japanese Americans and the Origins of Strict Scrutiny"