LOS ANGELES – A U.S. federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking the removal of a “comfort women” statue in the Southern California city of Glendale, ruling that the monument does not violate the Constitution as alleged in the case filed by two Japanese-Americans and a nonprofit organization.
“Glendale’s placement of the Comfort Women monument in its Central Park does not pose the type of interference with the federal government’s foreign affairs powers that states a plausible claim for relief,” U.S. Central District of California Judge Percy Anderson wrote in the decision issued Monday.
“Instead, even according to the facts alleged in the Complaint, Glendale’s placement of the statue is entirely consistent with the federal government’s foreign policy,” he wrote.
In a written statement distributed late Monday, the Global Alliance for Historical Truth, the nonprofit plaintiff in the case, called the judge’s decision highly subjective. Koichi Mera, one of the Japanese-American plaintiffs and president of GAHT, said the plaintiffs plan to appeal the decision. The remaining plaintiff is Michiko Shiota Gingery, also a GAHT member.
The plaintiffs filed the federal lawsuit in February, arguing that the monument could adversely affect U.S. relations with Japan and thus infringes on the federal government’s constitutional power to set foreign policy.
Judge Anderson likened the comfort women monument to other symbolic displays that are related to foreign affairs issues.
“For instance, those who might harbor some factual objection to the historical treatment of a state or municipal monument to the victims of the Holocaust could make similar claims to those advanced by Plaintiffs in this action,” he wrote. “Neither the Supremacy Clause nor the Constitution’s delegation of foreign affairs powers to the federal government prevent a municipality from acting as Glendale has done in this instance.”
The judge also found that the plaintiffs’ stated injury — their inability to use Glendale’s Central Park due to the distress caused by the statue — is not directly caused by Glendale’s alleged constitutional violations.
The lawsuit also argued that the city erected the statue without city council approval of the inscription imploring Japan to accept responsibility for its role in the forced sexual enslavement of thousands of women during the war.
Anderson dismissed this argument, tied to California state law, but added the plaintiffs could re-file it in the future.
Phyllis Kim, spokeswoman for the Korean American Forum of California, which spearheaded the effort to install the Glendale monument, said, “We are glad the judge ruled to dismiss the case and we are not surprised, actually. We expected that ruling, but the root cause of the issue has not been resolved.
“It didn’t change anything,” Kim added. “We still have the overdue apology issue and we are still going to do anything it takes to get the official apology and legal compensation for the grandmas.”
A request for comment from the City of Glendale went unanswered by Tuesday afternoon.
The ruling was issued on the same day two former comfort women, Lee Ok Seon, 87, and Kang Il Chul, 85, attended the unveiling of a new comfort women memorial in Union City, New Jersey.
Lee and Kang are finishing up a two-week trip to Southern California and the East Coast to meet with politicians familiar with the comfort women issue, attend events, and visit comfort women memorials erected in U.S. cities.
The women’s trip started in Los Angeles where they announced they would offer statements about their wartime experiences in support of Glendale in the lawsuit.