|Born||February 21 1921|
|Died||July 21 2013|
|Birth Location||Pa'auhau, Hawai'i|
Early Life and Education
Born on February 4, 1921, in Pa'auhau, on the island of Hawai'i, Masato was the youngest of four children of Toyozo Dohi, a Japanese immigrant plantation worker, and Tose Muranaka Dohi. He attended Pa'auhau School and Honoka'a Intermediate School, and also attended Japanese-language school. With help from a scholarship, which he paid off by caring for the school's swimming pool and by summer work on the plantation, he attended Mid-Pacific Institute (MPI), a boarding school in Honolulu, where he graduated in 1939, serving as valedictorian. He then enrolled at the University of Hawaii's Teachers College, intending to become a teacher. In 1941, while at University of Hawaii, he was a leading actor, performing in "oriental" plays such as a kabuki production.
Immediately following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Doi, along with many other young men, joined the Hawaii Territorial Guard. Once in the guard, he was assigned as a typist for the adjutant general. Once Japanese Americans were dismissed from the guard, he formally withdrew from the university and joined the Varsity Victory Volunteers (VVV). He served with the VVV, doing carpentry and building chairs in Schofield barracks, until the unit was demobilized in December 1942. After several weeks of serving as a practice teacher at Kawananakoa, in April 1943 Doi was able to enlist in the United States Army. He joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Antitank Company, and served in Italy and France. After the end of war in Europe, Doi volunteered to join the Military Intelligence Service to fight in the Pacific, but the Pacific War ended before he could begin language training. Upon his discharge in 1945 he held the rank of technical sergeant.
After the war, Doi decided to study at Columbia University. With assistance from a former MPI teacher, who flew him to the mainland as a medical attendant, he was able to travel to New York. With financing from the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in Columbia College, where he completed his undergraduate studies, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. He then went on to earn his law degree at Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar. While in school, Masato met Sachiko Yamada, who had relocated from California to New York following her confinement in the Manzanar camp during World War II, and was working as a legal secretary at a law firm. They were married in 1949 and later had two children, Carolyn and Philip.
Legislative and Legal Career
After receiving his law degree, Doi moved to Honolulu in 1950, where he began practicing law with Wilfred Tsukiyama, a prominent Nisei Republican, and Ralph Yamaguchi. Inspired by his desire to help common people, Doi began work as a Democratic political operative. In the 1954 election, as part of the "Democratic Revolution," he was elected to the Territorial House of Representatives for the Fourth District in Oahu. His chief campaign issue was the revision of property tax appraisal methods. After one two-year term, he left the House; he later explained that he was so occupied with legislative matters that he ignored his law practice, and was unable to make a living. Instead, he was elected in 1956 to the Honolulu Board of Supervisors. In 1959, during his term, he and his wife accompanied mayor Neal S. Blaisdell to Japan. It was his first of many visits to his ancestral homeland. In December 1960 he was chosen as the first chairman of the newly formed Honolulu City Council. (Previously, when it was the county board of supervisors, the mayor of Honolulu presided).
After an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Honolulu in 1964, in 1965 Doi was appointed to the Circuit Court bench by Governor John A. Burns, a longtime political ally though not a close friend. He was reappointed to a ten-year term in 1971. As a judge, Doi attracted respect for his fairness, as well as his policy of judicial restraint. "On our level we try to dispense justice as best as we can, but if you want wisdom you go upstairs [to the Hawaii Supreme Court]." He was also admired for his extensive command of criminal law procedure and practice. As a result, in 1966 Doi was appointed as chairman of the Judicial Council of Hawaii Penal Law Revision Project. Under his guidance, the new Hawai'i Penal Code was proposed. Enacted in 1972, it was distinguished by measures such as the decriminalization of homosexuality and reduction of penalties for marijuana possession from felony to misdemeanor. Doi later called his role as committee chair one of his greatest professional accomplishments.
He was notable as the presiding judge in the case of Kenneth Le Vasseur, an animal rights activist convicted of stealing dolphins from the University of Hawaii. "In 1966, Doi acquitted defendent Noel J. Kent on a flag desecration charge after Kent had burned a cardboard U.S. flag in an anti-Vietnam War protest. During his last year on the bench, several of Doi's rulings attracted controversy. He was criticized when he upheld the firearms conviction of a Honolulu man despite the fact that two jurors signed affidavits stating they did not believe he was guilty as charged. In a ruling involving the murder of a Hawai'i woman by her husband, Doi criticized the state's lax firearm laws that made the possession of handguns too easy. Perhaps the most ferocious reaction came after Judge Doi threw out Hawai'i's statutory rape laws on the grounds that they violated the Constitution's Equal Protection clause by punishing only males (of any age) who had consensual sex with underaged females, but not females who had sex with underaged boys.
At the end of December 1978, he stepped down from the circuit court and returned to his private legal practice. He stated that he no longer felt challenged in his judicial work, and felt financial constraints. In 1979, he was recommended by a Hawai'i state Judicial Selection Commission as a candidate for a U.S. judgeship, but was passed over by President Jimmy Carter in favor of Walter Heen. In 1980 he was named an attorney to assist O'ahu's grand juries. He served as advisor on panels inquiring into statewide sentencing practices. In 1981 he attracted renewed controversy when he told a U.S. House Committee that he had lost faith in prison rehabilitation programs for convicted felons, and instead proposed punishment-oriented prison sentences without possibility of early release as a deterrent to crime.
In 1997, five years after the death of his first wife, Sachiko, Doi married Cynthia Chi. He remained active in golfing and other activities until his death on July 21, 2013.
For More Information
Odo, Franklin S. No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai'i during World War II . Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003.
" Obituary: Masato Doi. " Honolulu Star-Advertiser , Sept. 25, 2013.
Last updated July 29, 2020, 5:51 p.m..