Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Supreme Court marks 70th anniversary of Japanese Internment by Gutting Voting Rights Act

In its deplorable vitiation of the Voting Rights Act, Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court was doubtless unaware of the irony that its abandonment of the Fifteenth Amendment's promise could have been a day of celebration, of renunciation of its own failures.  
Peter H. Irons, UC San Diego political science professor emeritus, and crusading lawyer, offered the United States Supreme Court the opportunity to follow Lincoln's emancipation proclamation example:   Renounce on its 70th anniversary your June 21, 1943 decision in Hirabayashi v. United States.  The Court upheld the criminal conviction of Gordon Hirabayashi "for disobeying military curfew orders that preceded and were followed by the forced removal from the West Coast and subsequent imprisonment of some 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of them native-born citizens" said Irons in his recent essay "Unfinished Business: the Case for Supreme Court Repudiation of the Japanese American Internment Cases.  The court upheld the internment eighteen months later in Korematsu v. United States".

Gordon Hirabyashi, Minoru Yasui, Fred Korematsu
In 1982, Professor Irons initiated and served as counsel to Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi in their coram nobis actions to vacate their wartime internment convictions. The next year he published Justice at War: the Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases.  He has not given up.  In a series of efforts Irons has documented his case:
The evidence of the government’s misconduct in these cases is clear and compelling, and rests on the government’s own records. It reveals that high government officials, including the Solicitor General, knowingly presented the Supreme Court with false and fabricated records, both in briefs and oral arguments, that misled the Court and resulted in decisions that deprived the petitioners in these cases of their rights to fair hearings of their challenges to military orders that were based, not on legitimate fears that they—and all Japanese Americans—posed a danger of espionage and sabotage on the West Coast, but rather reflected the racism of the general who promulgated the orders. As a result of the government’s misconduct in these cases, the integrity of the Supreme Court was compromised. With a full record of the government’s misconduct in these cases now before it, the Supreme Court has both the inherent power and duty to correct its tainted records through a public repudiation of the wartime decisions.
Irons' stubborn campaign will, I hope someday bear fruit.  We should remember today - in the shadow of the George Zimmerman acquittal - the prophetic words of dissent by former Michigan Governor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Frank Murphy:
“[T]his forced exclusion was the result in good measure of [an] erroneous assumption of racial guilt, rather than bona fide military necessity. A military judgment based upon such racial and sociological considerations is not entitled to the great weight ordinarily given the judgments based upon strictly military considerations. . . . I dissent, therefore, from this legalization of racism.”
Justice Frank Murphy, 323 U.S. at 235-242 (1944)

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