An Opportunity to Learn About the Continuing Importance of the Korematsu Case

Karleen C. Chinen

During a visit to the University of Hawai‘i’s William S. Richardson School of Law in February 2014, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016, conceded that the World War II internment of Japanese American was “wrong.”

“Well, of course, Korematsu (Korematsu v. US) was wrong,” he said. “But,” the justice added, “you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.”

Even three years ago, “Justice Scalia envisioned a politically driven mass exclusion or segregation of Muslims in America,” said Professor Eric K. Yamamoto. Yamamoto, the Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice at the Richardson School of Law, said Scalia also intimated that when challenged, the government would rely upon the Supreme Court’s 1944 Korematsu v. US decision. Korematsu, Scalia indicated, reflects the adage that “In times of war, the laws fall silent.”

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