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Korematsu v. United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued October 11–12, 1944
Decided December 18, 1944
Full case name Fred Korematsu vs. United States
Citations 323 U.S. 214 (more)
65 S. Ct. 193; 89 L. Ed. 194; 1944 U.S. LEXIS 1341
Prior history Certiorari to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
The exclusion order leading to Japanese American Internment was constitutional.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Black, joined by Stone, Reed, Douglas, Rutledge, Frankfurter
Concurrence Frankfurter
Dissent Roberts
Dissent Murphy
Dissent Jackson
Laws applied
Executive Order 9066; U.S. Const. amend. V

Korematsu v. United States was a landmark United States Supreme Court. It concerned the constitutionality of military commanders, under an executive order by the President, which ordered Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II. This was regardless of their citizenship.

In February of 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066. This gave military commanders the power to evacuate all persons considered a threat to national security from the West Coast of the United States to relocation centers.

Fred Korematsu, a Japanese-American who was born in the United States, refused to comply with the order. He became a fugitive, but was arrested and sentenced to five years probation. He appealed his conviction with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After having his conviction upheld, the case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 6-3 decision, the Court upheld his conviction and ruled the exclusion order was constitutional.


The question before the Court was did the President and Congress exceed their powers. Did they violate the rights of Japanese and American citizens of Japanese descent.

In the majority opinion by Justice Hugo Black, the Court ruled 6-9 that the need to protect the country from espionage outweighed the rights of Mr. Korematsu. The issue of discrimination against a person due to prejudice against his ancestry is not a factor. Neither is there any question of his loyalty to the United States. The sole issue is his refusal to comply with a legal order during a time of war.


Fred Korematsu and Family
Fred Korematsu (left) and family

On May 19, 1942, during World War II, Japanese Americans were ordered to be move into relocation camps. Fred Korematsu was a Japanese-American man who decided to stay in San Leandro, California and knowingly disobeyed the order of the U.S. Army. Korematsu argued that the order was unconstitutional and that it violated the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He was arrested, tried and convicted. No question was raised as to Korematsu's loyalty to the United States. T

Effects of Korematsu

The decision in Korematsu v. United States has been very controversial.Korematsu's conviction for evading internment was overturned in 1983. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 from President Bill Clinton.

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