Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Korematsu v. US Case Brief
Korematsu v US
During the World War II, on May 19, 1942, United States President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order which authorized military commanders to determine areas from which persons should evacuate from. This was the Executive Order 9066. In line with this said order, a military commander issued an order that all persons who were of Japanese descent should leave their homes which were located on the West Coast, after which they were to report to so called “assembly centers” which were internment camps. This order was deemed to be applicable to all persons of Japanese descent, regardless of whether or not they were American citizens.
The petitioner Korematsu, an American citizen of Japanese descent failed to comply with the said order. He knowingly violated the said order by staying in California. He was thus convicted of violating a federal law which penalized the failure to comply with military orders such as that mentioned. It is interesting to note that in the said case, the loyalty of Korematsu to the United States was unquestioned, and it was found that there was no reason to question his loyalty to the United States Government.
The Circuit Court of Appeals convicted Korematsu for the aforementioned offenses, and the United States Supreme Court later on granted the petition for certiorari.
The issue is whether or not the order of the Executive as well as Congress to exclude persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast is within their respective powers.
Such restriction and orders which restrict the exercise of the civil rights of a particular group must always be regarded with the utmost and strict scrutiny. However, there are instances wherein such rights must give way to public necessity which justify their curtailment.
It was ruled by the Court that in this specific case, such curtailment of the civil rights of the persons of Japanese descent was justified. Justice Black, in particular, noted that in times of war, such as when the order was executed, the government is given the necessary power to be able to effectively protect its people. In this specific case, the country was threatened by hostile forces and the government was left no choice but to wield its power with a heavier hand. Espionage was a very real threat to the safety of the country, and thus, steps to prevent such were reasonably necessary for the protection of United States citizens. As the danger to its people was great, the government also had to enforce orders that were in line with the protection of its people. In this specific case, the civil rights of Fred Korematsu were outweighed by the pressing need for the protection of the people. Korematsu was not ordered to leave the West Coast because his loyalty was questioned or because of hostility towards him or his racial affinity. He was excluded from the area because of the dangers of war.
It should be noted that the case in question is a special one, being one which involves the time of World War II. In no other case would this jurisprudence be applicable during ordinary times, so to speak.
This case in fact established the so called “strict scrutiny” standard of review in such cases. This rule was set forth in order to help determine whether or not such orders are reasonably necessary and whether or not the necessity of the implementation of the law is well balanced against the civil rights of those people who are affected by it. Later on, this “strict scrutiny” doctrine was used to decide cases which involved various laws and orders that were deemed invalid due to the fact that they were heavily influenced by discrimination, racial discrimination in particular.