external image korematsu1.jpg


In February, 1942, General DeWitt recommended that all Japanese-Americans be evacuated from the Pacific Coast. Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt, ordered General DeWitt's recommendation to be carried out. When this order reached Fred Korematsu, who was working on a shipyard in California, he evaded the order and moved to a small nearby town. There he got facial reconstruction surgery and claimed to be a Mexican-American so that he wouldn't be detained. He was later discovered, arrested, and convicted of violating the executive order. In response, Korematsu claimed that the power to segregate and detain based on race was unconstitutional and beyond the power of the United States' government. The government's defense was that the Japanese who were loyal were commiting espionage and were a danger to the United States. Since it was impossible to tell which Japanese were loyal, they had to act and detain all of them. Federal courts ruled in favor of the United States so Korematsu appealed his case. It was then taken to the supreme court for a final ruling.

Constitutional Significance
Both the fifth and sixth amendments were called into question during the case of Korematsu vs. US. The fifth amendment was called into question for being violated because the government was seizing property without reparation. This could have extended the boundaries of eminent domain, however was ruled that in times of crisis or war where this may be necessary it was constitutionally just, as long as it was within boundaries set by the supreme court. The sixth amendment states that everyone is entitled to a trial by jury, however the Japanese people were all forced into the detaining camps without any trial or hearing. This was also ruled constitutionally just so long as it served an important purpose for the united states, however it must meet requirements set by the supreme court.

Decision / Precident set by this case
The supreme court ruled in favor of the United States' government, however placed in effect a new rule stating that any law or order by government that discriminated against a race or ethnicity could only pass if it served an extremely important cause, called a compelling state interest. During the time, however, the government's order against the Japanese did barely meet the requirements and was allowed to continue as necessary.

Important Terms / Concepts
In the Korematsu vs. US case, it is important to consider the issues with race and segregation, housing, limit of federal government's power, and the differences in times of war and peace. Japanese-American citizens were evicted from their homes and placed in detaining facilities, only because of their ethnicity. The government's power to do this was called into question during these trials, and the power to do this was found to be within the government's power however only for matters of great importance. For example, in times of peace there should be no reason to have any law withholding the rights of any race. However during a time of war with someone's country of origin, it may be necessary to act or respond with a segregating order or law. The term espionage was used to argue for the segregation against the Japanese people, however the facts were that very few if any Japanese-Americans were acting in the interests of Japan or taking any action whatsoever. Evacuation was also used as a covering word for detaining, however the 'evacuation' of the Japanese people was for the America's best interests, not theirs.

external image SVHO2004-0811.jpg