29 Cal.2d 164, 19533, People v. Oyama

Docket Nº:19533
Citation:29 Cal.2d 164, 173 P.2d 794
Opinion Judge:[12] Edmonds
Party Name:People v. Oyama
Attorney:[7] Wirin, Maeno & Tietz, A. L. Wirin and Saburo Kido and Fred Okrand for Appellants. [8] Daniel G. Marshall, Sherwood Green, Marlin H. Shirley, Wayne M. Collins, Arthur Garfield Hays, Oswald K. Fraenkel, James C. Purcell and William E. Ferriter as Amici Curiae on behalf of Appellants. [9] Robert...
Case Date:October 31, 1946
Court:Supreme Court of California
 
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Page 164

29 Cal.2d 164

173 P.2d 794

THE PEOPLE, Respondent,

v.

FRED Y. OYAMA, a Minor, etc., et al., Appellants.

L. A. 19533.

Supreme Court of California

Oct. 31, 1946

In Bank.

Page 165

COUNSEL

[173 P.2d 795] Wirin, Maeno &amp Tietz, A. L. Wirin and Saburo Kido and Fred Okrand for Appellants. Daniel G. Marshall, Sherwood Green, Marlin H. Shirley, Wayne M. Collins, Arthur Garfield Hays, Oswald K. Fraenkel, James C. Purcell and William E. Ferriter as Amici Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

Page 166

Robert W. Kenny, Attorney General, Everett W. Mattoon, Deputy Attorney General, Thomas Whelan, District Attorney (San Diego), and Duane J. Carnes, Deputy District Attorney, for Respondent. Chester E. Watson, District Attorney (San Joaquin), and Robert P. Sullivan, Chief Deputy District Attorney as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondent.

OPINION

[173 P.2d 796] EDMONDS, J.

Principally upon the ground that the United States Supreme Court has changed the constitutional tests applicable to state legislation such as the Alien Land Law (Alien Property Initiative Act of 1920, Stats. 1921, p. lxxxiii, as amended; 1 Deering's Gen. Laws, Act 261], the validity of that statute is again challenged. Another question presented for decision concerns the effect of the recent amendment of the federal law which allows, under certain circumstances, a member of the Japanese race to become a citizen of the United States.

In the petition filed by the attorney general, he asserted that certain real property, by reason of its conveyance in violation of the Alien Land Law, has escheated to the state. Two causes of action were pleaded. In the first one, it was alleged that Kajiro Oyama, Kohide Oyama, formerly Kohide Kushino, and Ririchi Kushino, are of the Japanese race, natives of the Empire of Japan and citizens and subjects of that country and, by reason thereof, are not eligible to citizenship under the laws of the United States; that Fred Y. Oyama is the son of Kajiro and Kohide Oyama and is of the Japanese race but was born in California in 1928; and that June Kushino also is of the Japanese race and was born in California in 1921. There has never been a treaty permitting a native of Japan to acquire an interest in the agricultural land of this country. Since 1935, by appointment of the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the County of San Diego, Kajiro Oyama has been the duly qualified guardian of the person and estate of Fred Y. Oyama, a minor. June Kushino attained the age of 21 years in 1942 and during her minority, Ririchi Kushino was the guardian of her person and estate.

In 1934, the petition continued, Kajiro Oyama and Kohide Oyama purchased certain agricultural land in San Diego County and a purported conveyance of it was made by one

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Yonezo Oyama to Fred Y. Oyama. The purchase price of $4,000 was paid to Yonezo Oyama by Kajiro and Kohide Oyama. Upon the execution and delivery of this purported deed, Kajiro and Kohide Oyama entered into the possession of the property and have ever since occupied and cultivated it as their own, and have had in their own right the beneficial use and enjoyment of the lands for agricultural purposes. The purchase of the property and the taking of the deed in the name of Fred Y. Oyama was a mere subterfuge, a fraud upon the People of the State of California and a violation of the Alien Land Law of California. Moreover, these persons acted willfully, knowingly and with intent to obtain the ownership and use of the agricultural lands for their own use.

Other allegations of this count were that Kajiro Oyama failed to render any account to the superior court for his receipts and expenditures as guardian, and has not filed any annual or other account or report with the Secretary of State of California, as required by section 5 of the Alien Land Law. No account or report has been filed by the guardian with the County Clerk of San Diego County or served upon the district attorney, but in conducting business affecting the land in controversy, Kajiro Oyama used the name "Fred Oyama" and "Y. Oyama," and maintained checking accounts in each of those names for the purpose of evading and violating the Alien Land Law.

[173 P.2d 797] The second cause of action incorporated some of the allegations of the first count, including those having to do with the race, nativity, citizenship and status of the parties. It then pleaded that in 1937, the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the County of San Diego, in the matter of the Guardianship of June Kushino, made an order confirming the sale of certain described land in that county from her to Fred Y. Oyama for a purchase price of $1,500. Upon the making and recording of that order, Kajiro and Kohide Oyama entered into possession of the property and have since occupied and used it as their own and have had in their own right the beneficial use of the land for agricultural purposes. All of these acts were done by Kajiro and Kohide Oyama, willfully, knowingly and with intent to violate the Alien Land Law of the State of California. The prayer of the petition was that the land conveyed to Fred Y. Oyama be decreed to have escheated to the state as of the date of the

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respective deeds; also that, as against the state, each of the defendants be forever barred from asserting any claim or title to either parcel.

The defendants demurred to the petition upon the grounds that it did not state facts sufficient to state a cause of action, that the court lacked jurisdiction, that the California Alien Land Law is unconstitutional, and that the causes of action are barred by the statutes of limitations. The demurrer was overruled.

By answer, the defendants admitted the race and Japanese citizenship of Kajiro Oyama, Kohide Oyama, and Ririchi Kushino, but denied that, by reason thereof, they are not eligible to citizenship under the laws of the United States. They admitted the pleaded facts as to the birth and race of Fred Y. Oyama and June Kushino, and also the allegations concerning the guardianship proceedings. But the answer denied that Kajiro and Kohide Oyama purchased the property described in the complaint and asserted that Kajiro Oyama provided the money to purchase the two parcels of property as a gift to his son. Each of the transactions was made in good faith and for the purpose of acquiring for their son a means of earning a livelihood and for the further purpose of guarding and husbanding the gift for that purpose. The property described in the complaint is agricultural land, but Kajiro and Kohide Oyama have not occupied, used or cultivated it as their own nor had the beneficial use of it. As an affirmative defense, the defendants alleged that the state should not recover because of laches.

Upon the trial of these issues, John C. Kurfurst was the only witness. He testified that he had known the Oyama and Kushino families since about 1932. When the Japanese were evacuated from the Pacific coast, he rented the land in controversy and, by two checks, paid the rent to Fred Oyama. These checks were returned to him endorsed in that name. Kurfurst had never heard the name Kajiro Oyama; he had always known the father of the family as "Fred" and stated that "everybody else called him Fred." But he had received a letter signed "Fred Oyama" notifying him that the property was being turned over to a Mr. Kelly although Kurfurst had never heard the writer refer to himself by that name.

Other testimony of Kurfurst was that at one time Oyama, senior, said: "Some day the boy will have a good piece of property because that is going to be valuable." However, he

Page 169

admitted that in a letter which he wrote, in referring to "Fred Yoshihiro Oyama," he meant the son and not the father. He knew that the property belonged to the boy, Fred Oyama, and to June Kushino; also that the father was running the boy's business. But he did not know whether the checks were made out to the "old man or the young fellow" and he did not know "whether the boy signed it or Mr. Oyama."

Evidence of official records showed that no reports pursuant to the requirements of the Alien Land Law had been filed by the defendants. The state also proved that in the guardianship proceeding, on two occasions, the father of Fred Y. Oyama, as guardian, applied for leave of court to borrow money and to mortgage the property as security for the indebtedness. Both applications were granted.

[173 P.2d 798] Upon this evidence the court found all of the facts alleged in the petition to be true. The conclusion of law drawn from these facts were that, as of 1934 and 1937, respectively, title to the two parcels of real property in question was vested in and did escheat to the...

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