Korematsu v. U.S.

323 U.S. 214, 65 S. Ct. 193 (1944)



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. But courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny. Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions but racial antagonism never can.


An American citizen of Japanese descent, was convicted in the United States district court for remaining in a designated military area contrary to Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 of the Commanding General of the Western Command, U.S. Army, which directed that after May 9, 1942, all persons of Japanese ancestry should be excluded from that area. The Japanese-American citizen challenged the assumptions underlying the order and claimed that when the exclusion order was enacted, all danger of Japanese invasion of the exclusion area had disappeared. On appeal, the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The case was elevated on certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States.


Was the Exclusion Order valid?




The Court found that the exclusion order, like a previously upheld curfew order, was intended to prevent espionage and sabotage in threatened areas during war. The exclusion from such an area was closely related to the intent of the order. Moreover, the Court could not reject the judgment of the military and Congress that there were disloyal members of the population who constituted a menace to the national defense and safety. Compulsory exclusion of groups of citizens from their homes, except under circumstances of direst emergency and peril, was inconsistent with the basic governmental institutions. However, because the order curtailed the rights of a group based on national origin, the order was inherently suspect and rigid scrutiny was applied. Nevertheless, the Court held that the exclusion order was justified by the exigencies of war and the threat to national security.

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