Brief Fact Summary.
In response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, the U.S. government decided to require Japanese-Americans to move into “relocation centers” as a matter of national security. Korematsu, a Japanese-American man, chose to stay at his residence rather than obey the order to relocate. Korematsu was arrested and convicted of violating the order.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Legal restrictions that curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are subject to the most rigid scrutiny, but pressing public necessity may sometimes justify such restrictions.
But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens.View Full Point of Law
In response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, the U.S. government decided to require Japanese-Americans to move into “relocation centers” as a matter of national security. President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, giving military officials the legal authority to exclude any and all persons from designated areas on the west coast in order to ensure against sabotage and espionage. Congress implicitly ratified the Executive Order by providing that the violation of an implementing order by a military commander constituted a misdemeanor punishable by fine or imprisonment.
Korematsu, a Japanese-American man living in San Leandro, CA chose to stay at his residence rather than obey the order to relocate. Korematsu was arrested and convicted of violating the order. He responded by arguing that Executive Order 9066 violated the Fifth Amendment.
Did the President and Congress go beyond their war powers by implementing exclusion and restricting the rights of Americans of Japanese descent?
No, the President and Congress did not go beyond their war powers by implementing exclusion and restricting the rights of Americans of Japanese descent.
The exclusion at issue here extends beyond constitutional power and falls into the abyss of racism. Although we must extend great deference to the judgments of the military, it is essential that there be definite limits to military discretion. Moreover, the military order is not reasonably related to the dangers it seeks to prevent.
We must not distort the Constitution to approve everything the military may deem expedient. Korematsu was born in America and just so happens to parents who were born in Japan. If any fundamental assumption underlies our system, it is that guilt is personal and not inheritable.
All legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect. That is not to say that all such restrictions are unconstitutional–it is to say that courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny. Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.
Nothing short of apprehension by the proper military authorities of the gravest imminent danger to the public safety can constitutionally justify the exclusion order. Here, the rigid scrutiny is met. That there were members of the group who retained loyalties to Japan has been confirmed by investigations made subsequent to the exclusion. Approximately 5,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry refused to sweat unqualified allegiance to the U.S. and several thousand evacuees requested repatriation to Japan.