An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

On December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the Pacific Fleet of the U.S. Navy, which was docked in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The following day, Congress declared war against Japan. Over the next three years, the Supreme Court would consider the legality of three executive actions taken by the Roosevelt administration during the war against Japan. First, in Hirabayashi v. United States (1943), the Justices unanimously upheld a curfew imposed against American citizens of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast. Second, in Ex parte Endo (1944), the Court unanimously halted the military’s detention of Japanese-Americans in detention camps. In the third case, Korematsu v. United States (1944), the Justices upheld the military’s exclusion of Japanese-Americans from certain “zones” on the West Coast. This 6-3 deci- sion upheld Fred Korematsu’s conviction for violating the exclusion order.

Justice Black wrote the majority opinion in Korematsu.

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