Shortly after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, providing for the relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment camps in the name of national security. Fred Korematsu refused to obey the order to move to one of these camps. In Korematsu v. United States (1944), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of these camps. Despite Korematsu’s claims that his constitutional rights were being violated, the Court felt that national security was more important in a time of war. The justice system, they claimed, should defer to the demands of the military.
The Korematsu decision has been recognized as one of the worst in the history of the Supreme Court. In the 75 years since that case, Korematsu’s conviction has been overturned and the Department of Justice has acknowledged its fault. Chief Justice John Roberts, in Trump v. Hawaii (2018), stated, “Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided…and—to be clear—‘has no place in law under the Constitution.’”