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Defending Hirota




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  • "Amazing. Educational, interesting, fascinating and important." Dave S., Cal.
  • "The best CLE I have ever taken." Jay H., Fairfax, VA
  • "A remarkably timely course." Marshall C., Great Falls, VA
  • "Words cannot adequately describe your documentary. So many emotional moments. I was drawn to tears many times. Amazing." Janie B., Simi Valley, CA
  • "I knew it was going to be good... It was like an academy award movie. The best documentary! Everyone should have an opportunity to watch Defending Hirota. On top of that, I got 2 CLE credits!" Rhea D., Orange County, CA
  • "Perhaps the best CLE I have ever enjoyed in 25 years as a lawyer.  Thank you so much for this fantastic presentation! I wish it was a movie!" Jeff U., Los Angeles, CA

Completely re-mastered and professionally narrated for 2020!

Enjoy the Hollywood Style Movie Trailer (click bottom right to enlarge)


Sometimes a story from the past can inform the present and provide guidance for the future...

This is the forgotten story of a "courageous and intellectually formidable" defense lawyer, David F. Smith, who overcame his own prejudices to carry out his ethical obligation to defend former Premier Koki Hirota zealously in the Tokyo War Trials (1946-48).

What General MacArthur planned as a 6-month "show trial" to avenge Pearl Harbor and war atrocities unexpectedly became a fierce 2-year legal battle as David F. Smith and a few dedicated lawyers challenged towering historical figures of the time. 

Their advocacy for a fair trial and judicial review of egregious due process violations fell on deaf ears. Historical documents declassified many years later reveal the dignity and self-sacrifice of Premier Hirota and despite Smith's all-out efforts (including a pro bono petition to the U.S. Supreme Court) the tragic execution of an innocent man.

Taking several years to research and produce, this presentation includes first-person accounts and never-before-seen private correspondence from post-War Premier Shigeru Yoshida thanking David F. Smith "from the bottom of my heart" for defending "my ill-fated friend."

Seventy years later, the principles of international justice forcefully advocated by David F. Smith and colleagues have now been vindicated in Supreme Court jurisprudence in the War on Terror and in legislation rebalancing how we treat our worst enemies while protecting Americans in a new kind of war.

It concludes by tracing Supreme Court jurisprudence through the overruling of Korematsu (US 1944) in the Travel Ban case to present-day headlines, making it a "remarkably timely course."

Defending Hirota examines legal professionalism in the heat of battle and the central role of lawyers in our Constitutional system of checks and balances. It is a story rich in conflict, dilemma, irony, courage and sacrifice that will inspire you and other lawyers to write the next chapter in this timeless story...

The presentation is delivered in a low-keyed narrative to let the facts and historical events speak for themselves... and to prompt all lawyers to ask, "What would I do?"


"Your course was overwhelmingly interesting... My knowledge (during those time periods) acquired during my growing up in Japan, came back in the undeniable realities. My sincere respect and gratitude to [David F. Smith] for his remarkable, professional dedication and courage to fight for (past enemy) Mr. Hirota!" - Katsuko H. (Fairfax, VA).

“[S]itting in the sunroom of the Commanding General’s quarters on Camp Zama, Japan… I just completed your CLE about the Tokyo War Trials and very much enjoyed the pictures, clips and history that appeared throughout your presentation. Thank you for presenting your very informative course. Our complicated history with Japan following defeat and Occupation continues to this day and I j ust wanted convey my appreciation.” Lizanne P., Esq.

"My mother worked in MacArthur's General HQ in Tokyo... My thanks for aiding my understanding of this important chapter of American and world history. An excellent presentation!" Jeff B., Los Altos, CA

From a prior inmate of the Japanese-American Internment Camps: "I just finished watching Defending Hirota. You did a fascinating and academically impressive job. My hat is off to you.... It is absorbing and makes one see the bias and weakness that can rear its ugly head...." Gene M., MD (Retired), Maui, Hawaii

From a Licensed Battlefield Guide: "The combination of a significant historical event, challenging ethical issues and relevant trial and appellate opinions... was not only informative but riveting." John F., CA. [Capt. USMC, Colonel, USAF, Ret.]

"As a retired Navy Commander and lawyer, I found the military aspects very informative and enjoyable. Excellent. As we say in the Navy, Bravo Zulu!" Drew D., Santa Ana, CA

"This is an amazing course. It makes me proud to be in the same profession as [David F. Smith]." Rob R., Springfield, VA

"Thanks for this excellent program. You've honored [David F. Smith's] legacy in a profound and wonderful way." Patrick M., Washington, DC

"[Defending Hirota] does a great job in making viewers think about the attorney's ethical duties to speak truth to power. Great program!" Professor Bryan C., Texas.

"I completed Defending Hirota… with my 15 year old son who is traveling to Japan [soon]. This course was the best MCLE course I have attended.  My son and I were absolutely fascinated and the footage and original documents were outstanding. The ethics Rules and Canons were extremely helpful…. [T]he format was brilliant.” Ellen D., Esq., Alexandria VA

"Our [entire] office watched the program [under the group price]. It was fantastic! A fascinating and informative program!" Helen I., San Diego, CA

"[This] program was fantastic. I accept Capital appointments and I found so much applicable to my... cases. 'Those that do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' Great Work." Jon T., Esq., VA

"An excellent presentation on [a] horrific injustice... while reminding us of .. what happens when we suspend procedural due process and our Constitutional principles. Will we ever learn?" Shauna W., Reston, VA

"Great presentation! Defending Hirota is an interesting and informative presentation that cleverly combines history with CLE." William R., Alexandria, VA

"I just did 'Defending Hirota'. Quite interesting and enjoyable, the way CLE should be."  Brian F., Esq., Potomac, MD

"I really appreciated this! More people should hear this story... a wonderful program!" Amy A., Esq., Medford, OR

"Thanks for making such a fun and relevant CLE [about] the dangers of outcome-driven jurisprudence. You served history by leaving no room for rationalization." Catherine D., Esq., CA

"This was one of the best ethics CLEs that I have taken. Thank you for sharing [this] story - what a tremendous tribute...." Holly R., Esq. Tysons Corner, VA

"Outstanding CLE... Inspirational... Thank you for making us better lawyers." G. Timothy Oksman, Esq., Richmond, VA

This CLE was terrific! It was a course to appreciate, enjoy and learn from. Very well done.” A.S., Esq., Falls Church, VA

"Fantastic work on content and production quality." Bob G., Fairfax, VA

I very much enjoyed the Hirota CLE, especially given my Navy JAG background and duties advising on international criminal law and justice.” David B., Esq. (Rep. of Congo).

"What a great course - the best CLE I have ever taken. My father was a captain in the Pacific and your program brought back all the stories he told. I thoroughly enjoyed it." Jay H., Esq., Fairfax, VA

"Really well done. Not only interesting, but the slides and clips were really cool. The CLE was out of my usual real estate law studies, so it was particularly enjoyable.” Karen W., Esq., Gainesville, VA.

"An Outstanding CLE program. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end." Robert H., Washington, D.C.

"[A]n interesting and provocative program both from the history it discusses and the thoughtful ethical issues it raises. [It] provides a cautionary tale for our ... sanctions on North Korea ... [O]ur duties as attorneys reminds us that the right choices are often very hard." Fran L., Charlottesville, VA.

"Defending Hirota was a moving presentation." Lawrence F., Houston, TX.

"A very good but sad presentation... My family... is related to Gordon Hirabayashi [who challenged the Japanese American detention in the Supreme Court]. [A]s long as there is fear-mongering, the Korematsu chapter [of this story] may never be closed." Tom V., Gaithersburg, MD.

"Great CLE. I'm drawn to histo[ry] ... and greatly enjoyed it." Scott C., Washington, DC

"Excellent CLE. And the early history of China was a totally new education for me." Bob B., Fairfax, VA

"It was excellent!" Christine I., Colorado

"Excellent!" Peyton M., Fairfax, VA

"Outstanding presentation! Even better at the end... The ethical issues are such that any defense attorney can relate." John M., Fairfax Station, VA '[Lt. Col. USMC, Ret.]

"What an interesting and timely CLE! It was very thoughtfully done.... I am very glad that I watched this. [The issues presented] are fundamental to our American system of justice." Judith F., California.

"A very interesting presentation!" Jason P., Alexandria, VA

"Very interesting and entertaining!" Bill R., CA

"Thanks for the only truly interesting CLE I've ever listened to :-)  And thanks for publicizing [David F. Smith's"] heroic battle." Sharon F., Fairfax, VA

"Thank you for a remarkably timely course." Marshall C., Great Falls, VA

"Fantastic!" Paul C., Washington, DC

"The presentation was fantastic." Jason L., Los Angeles, CA

"Very well done. The course deserves to be touted." John K., CA (former Army JAG officer).

"I learned a lot from this course. Outstanding. A timely CLE." Jason P., Alexandria, VA

"I was inspired and intrigued by Defending Hirota… Truly inspirational." John B., Fairfax, VA

"I enjoyed the presentation. A unique CLE."  Scott Y., Tampa, FL


  • Introduction
  • Part I: Japanese Expansion into China (1930s)
  • Part II: The Pacific War
  • Part III: Stern Justice
  • Part IV: American Defense Counsel
  • Part V: Politics, Power and Law
  • Part VI: Due Process of Law
  • Part VII: Final Verdict and Sentence
  • Part VIII: The Great Writ
  • Part IX: Zealous Advocate
  • Epilogue: Subsequent History to Modern Times

To purchase this course, simply click the blue button at the top with the price displayed. Then set up an account (enter your email address and select a password). You can then buy with a credit card or a PayPal account. When you're finished, an instant Completion Certificate will be issued with the Course ID Number.

About Your Instructor

John Newman

John Newman


John A. Newman, Esq. has been a Va. Bar Member since 1981. He graduated from Georgetown University Law Center (LLM in Tax), Wake Forest University School of Law (J.D., Law Review) and Salisbury University (Business, Summa Cum Laude).

His published law review articles have been cited by a unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court (1983) and presented by invitation to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee (1986).

He has been a technology industry commercial lawyer for 30 years and the father of three Eagle Scouts.

Feel free to email John with any questions...


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