Hirabayashi v. United States
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|Hirabayashi vs. United States|
|Argued May 10–11, 1943
Decided June 21, 1943
|Full case name||Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi v. United States|
|Citations||320 U.S. 81 (more)
63 S. Ct. 1375; 87 L. Ed. 1774; 1943 U.S. LEXIS 1109
|Prior history||Certificate from the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit|
|The Court held that the application of curfews against members of a minority group was constitutional when the nation was at war with the country from which that group originated.|
|Majority||Stone, joined by Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Jackson|
|United States Executive Order 9066; U.S. Const.|
Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court held that the application of curfews against members of a minority group were constitutional when the nation was at war with the country from which that group originated. The case arose out of the issuance of Executive Order 9066 following the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt had authorized military commanders to secure areas from which "any or all persons may be excluded," and Japanese Americans were subject to a curfew and other restrictions before being removed to internment camps. The plaintiff, Gordon Hirabayashi, was convicted of violating the curfew and had appealed to the Supreme Court. Yasui v. United States was a companion case decided the same day. Both convictions were overturned in coram nobis proceedings in the 1980s.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, American public opinion initially stood by the large population of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast, or at least did not openly question their loyalty to the United States. Six weeks later, however, public opinion turned against Japanese Americans, as the press and other Americans became nervous about the potential for fifth column activity. Though the administration (including President Roosevelt and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover) dismissed rumors of Japanese American espionage on behalf of the Japanese war effort, pressure mounted upon the administration as the tide of public opinion turned against Japanese Americans.
On February 19, 1942, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing Lieutenant General John DeWitt (as head of the Western Defense Command) to exclude certain persons from "military areas," regardless of their ancestry or country of citizenship. Over the course of several weeks, LTG DeWitt issued several public proclamations, which first imposed a curfew upon Japanese American citizens and resident "aliens" of Japanese descent. (The Issei, or first-generation immigrants, were prohibited from naturalized citizenship as members of an "unassimilable" race.) Later orders confined Japanese Americans to Military Area No. 1, which included Seattle, where Hirabayashi lived. On May 3, 1942, DeWitt issued an order requiring Japanese Americans in the Seattle area to report to assigned assembly points for "evacuation" to isolated inland camps. (At the time, the terms "relocation centers," "internment camps," and "concentration camps" were used interchangeably.)
The defendant, Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi, was a University of Washington student who was accused of violating the curfew and exclusion order, designated a misdemeanor by Public Law 503, a Congressional statue introduced to enforce Executive Order 9066 and any subsequent military orders. Hirabayashi turned himself in for disobeying the curfew at the FBI's Seattle office on May 16, 1942, announcing that he also planned to disobey the impending removal order. He was held in King County Jail for five months, until his trial on October 20. The jury deliberated for just ten minutes before returning two guilty verdicts, one for the curfew violation and another for the exclusion order, and Hirabayashi was sentenced to consecutive thirty-day jail terms. (After requesting to serve his time in an outdoor labor camp rather than prison, Judge Lloyd Black handed down two ninety-day sentences, to be served concurrently at the Catalina Federal Honor Camp outside Tucson, Arizona.) Hirabayashi's lawyers appealed the conviction and, after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco declined to rule on the case, it eventually landed in the Supreme Court.
The Justice Department expected a legal challenge to all of the three substantive elements of Roosevelt's and DeWitt's directives to Japanese Americans: curfew, exclusion, and internment. The FDR administration, and particularly the Department of Justice and Francis Biddle sought out test cases it could use to establish favorable precedent and prepare itself for a case that could challenge the entire internment policy.
The Supreme Court heard both the Hirabayashi case and Yasui v. United States during the 1942-1943 term, and released the opinions as companion cases on June 21, 1943. The Court upheld the curfew order in both the Hirabayashi and Yasui cases. (Although Hirabayashi had been convicted of two violations, because the two sentences had been served concurrently the Justices chose only to consider the curfew and not the more controversial exclusion of Japanese American citizens.) Minoru Yasui was "released" to the Minidoka concentration camp on time served, while Hirabayashi, who had been living in Spokane, Washington since finishing his sentence at Catalina, briefly remained free before being sent to the McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary when he refused to comply with a draft order.
This case has been largely overshadowed by Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), decided the following term, in which the Court directly addressed the constitutionality of the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. But, though the Korematsu case (challenging the exclusion portion of Executive Order 9066) overshadowed the Hirabayashi case (challenging only the curfew portion of the order), the Court's opinion in Korematsu cited its Hirabayashi ruling, upholding the restrictions placed on Japanese Americans.
In 1986 and 1987, Hirabayashi's convictions on both charges were overturned by the U.S. District Court in Seattle and the Federal Appeals Court, because evidence arose that the Solicitor General's office (led by Charles H. Fahy) had cited examples of Japanese American sabotage in its 1943-44 Supreme Court arguments, despite having researched and debunked all the rumored incidents. In 2011, the Acting Solicitor General officially confessed error in that regard.
In May 2012, President Obama awarded Gordon Hirabayashi posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor.
Eleven lawyers who had represented Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Minoru Yasui in successful efforts in lower federal courts to nullify their convictions for violating military curfew and exclusion orders sent a letter, dated January 13, 2014, to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.. In light of the appeal proceedings before the U.S. Supreme in Hedges v. Obama, the lawyers asked Verrili to request the Supreme Court overrule its 1943 decisions in Korematsu, Hirabayashi and Yasui. If the Solicitor General shouldn't do this, they asked that the United States government “make clear” that the federal government “does not consider the internment decisions as valid precedent for governmental or military detention of individuals or groups without due process of law [...]."
- Gordon Hirabayashi
- Executive Order 9066
- Japanese American internment
- Japanese American redress and court cases
- List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 320
- Korematsu v. United States
- Yasui v. United States
- ex parte Endo
- Peter Irons, Justice at War.
- Niiya, Brian. "Public Law 503". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
- Niiya, Brian. "Hirabayashi v. United States". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
- Lyon, Cherstin M. "Gordon Hirabayashi". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
- Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944)
- Savage, David G. (24 May 2011), "U.S. Official Cites Misconduct in Japanese American Internment Cases", The Los Angeles Times
- Dale Minami, Lorraine Bannai, Donald Tomaki, Peter Irons, Eric Yamamoto, Leigh Ann Miyasato, Pegy Nagae, Rod Kawakami, Karen Kai, Kathryn A. Bannai, and Robert Rusky (13 January 2014). "Re: Hedges v. Obama Supreme Court of the United States Docket No. 17- 758". SCOUSblog. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
- Denniston, Lyle (16 January 2014). "A plea to cast aside Korematsu". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
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