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Korematsu v. United States

Citation. 323 U.S. 214, 65 S. Ct. 193, 89 L. Ed. 194, 1944 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Petitioner, Korematsu (Petitioner), a Japanese-American, was forced to leave his home that was located in a military area in California. The Respondent, the United States (Respondent), claimed that the expulsion was necessary in the time of war.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Legal restrictions that interfere with the civil rights of a single racial group are subject to strict scrutiny. But, pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions.


On May 9, 1942, the Commanding General of the Western Command of the United States Army decided that all persons of Japanese ancestry should be excluded from the military area of San Leandro, California. The General felt that curfews imposed at the time were not sufficient to protect the area from the dangers of espionage and sabotage. The Petitioner refused to leave his home and was convicted in federal court for staying at his home. The Petitioner claims that this rule was racially discriminatory.


Was it beyond the war power of Congress and the Executive to exclude those of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast war area at the time they did?


No. When under conditions of war on homeland soil, the power to protect the United States must be commensurate with the threatened danger.
Petitioner was not excluded from the area because of hostility to him or his race. There was evidence of disloyalty in the group, but the specific persons could not be readily identified in an expedited manner. So, all of the group were excluded from the area.


Justice Frank Murphy (J. Murphy) stated that the regulation is an example of racism. The military should have discretion to make decisions, but when martial law has not been declared within an area, there are limits to the military’s power. The appropriate test for this situation is “the public danger should have been so immediate, imminent and impending” that a delay would have been devastating.
Justice Robert Jackson (J. Jackson) said that the Petitioner was convicted of a crime that would not have been a crime had he been of a different race.


The majority creates an exclusion for this case. Normally, a law forcing all people of a particular race to leave an area would violate the United States Constitution (Constitution). But, because of the intense concern for national security at the time, these folks were asked to leave. First, the government tried imposing a curfew, but it appears that this was ignored and that persons may have sabotaged the military integrity of the West Coast.

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