Hirabayashi v. United States/Concurrence Murphy

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Mr. Justice MURPHY, concurring.

It is not to be doubted that the action taken by the military commander in pursuance of the authority conferred upon him was taken in complete good faith and in the firm conviction that it was required by considerations of public safety and military security. Neither is it doubted that the Congress and the Executive working together may generally employ such measures as are necessary and appropriate to provide for the common defense and to wage war 'with all the force necessary to make it effective.' United States v. Macintosh, 283 U.S. 605, 622, 51 S.Ct. 570, 574, 75 L.Ed. 1302. This includes authority to exercise measures of control over persons and property hich would not in all cases be permissible in normal times. [1]

It does not follow, however, that the broad guaranties of the Bill of Rights and other provisions of the Constitution protecting essential liberties are suspended by the mere existence of a state of war. It has been frequently stated and recognized by this Court that the war power, like the other great substantive powers of government, is subject to the limitations of the Constitution. See Ex parte Milligan, 4 Wall. 2, 18 L.Ed. 281; Hamilton v. Kentucky Distilleries Co., 251 U.S. 146, 156, 40 S.Ct. 106, 108, 64 L.Ed. 194; Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell, 290 U.S. 398, 426, 54 S.Ct. 231, 235, 78 L.Ed. 413, 88 A.L.R. 1481. We give great deference to the judgment of the Congress and of the military authorities as to what is necessary in the effective prosecution of the war, but we can never forget that there are constitutional boundaries which it is our duty to uphold. It would not be supposed, for instance, that public elections could be suspended or that the prerogatives of the courts could be set aside, or that persons not charged with offenses against the law of war (see Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1, 63 S.Ct. 2, 87 L.Ed. --) could be deprived of due process of law and the benefits of trial by jury, in the absence of a valid declaration of martial law. Cf. Ex parte Milligan, supra.

Distinctions based on color and ancestry are utterly inconsistent with our traditions and ideals. They are at variance with the principles for which we are now waging war. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that for centuries the Old World has been torn by racial and religious conflicts and has suffered the worst kind of anguish because of inequality of treatment for different groups. There was one law for one and a different law for another. Nothing is written more firmly into our law than the compact of the Plymouth voyagers to have just and equal laws. To say that any group cannot be assimilated is to admit that the great American experiment has failed, that our way of life has failed when confronted with the normal attachment of certain groups to the lands of their forefathers. As a nation we embrace many groups, some of them among the oldest settlements in our midst, which have isolated themselves for religious and cultural reasons.

Today is the first time, so far as I am aware, that we have sustained a substantial restriction of the personal liberty of citizens of the United States based upon the accident of race or ancestry. Under the curfew order here challenged no less than 70,000 American citizens have been placed under a special ban and deprived of their liberty because of their particular racial inheritance. In this sense it bears a melancholy resemblance to the treatment accorded to members of the Jewish race in Germany and in other parts of Europe. The result is the creation in this country of two classes of citizens for the purposes of a critical and perilous hour-to sanction discrimination between groups of United States citizens on the basis of ancestry. In my opinion this goes to the very brink of constitutional power.

Except under conditions of great emergency a regulation of this kind applicable solely to citizens of a particular racial extraction would not be regarded as in accord with the requirement of due process of law contained in the Fifth Amendment. We have consistently held that attempts to apply regulatory action to particular groups solely on the basis of racial distinction or classification is not in accordance with due process of law as prescribed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Cf. Yick Wo. v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 369, 6 S.Ct. 1064, 1070, 30 L.Ed. 220; Yu Con Eng v. Trinidad, 271 U.S. 500, 524-528, 46 S.Ct. 619, 625, 626, 70 L.Ed. 1059. See also Boyd v. Frankfort, 117 Ky. 199, 77 S.W. 669, 111 Am.St.Rep. 240; Opinion of the Justices, 207 Mass. 601, 94 N.E. 558, 34 L.R.A.,N.S., 604. It is true that the Fifth Amendment, unlike the Fourteenth, contains no guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Cf. Currin v. Wallace, 306 U.S. 1, 14, 59 S.Ct. 379, 386, 83 L.Ed. 441. It is also true that even the guaranty of equal protection of the laws allows a measure of reasonable classification. It by no means follows, however, that there may not be discrimination of such an injurious character in the application of laws as to amount to a denial of due process of law as that term is used in the Fifth Amendment. [2] I think that point is dangerously approached when we have one law for the majority of our citizens and another for those of a particular racial heritage.

In view, however, of the critical military situation which prevailed on the Pacific Coast area in the spring of 1942, and the urgent necessity of taking prompt and effective action to secure defense installations and military operations against the risk of sabotage and espionage, the military authorities should not be required to conform to standards of regulatory action appropriate to normal times. Because of the damage wrought by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor and the availability of new weapons and new techniques with greater capacity for speed and deception in offensive operations, the immediate possibility of an attempt at invasion somewhere along the Pacific Coast had to be reckoned with. However desirable such a procedure might have been, the military authorities could have reasonably concluded at the time that determinations as to the loyalty and dependability of individual members of the large and widely scattered group of persons of Japanese extraction on the West Coast could not be made without delay that might have had tragic consequences. Modern war does not always wait for the observance of procedural requirements that are considered essential and appropriate under normal conditions. Accordingly I think that the military arm, confronted with the peril of imminent enemy attack and acting under the authority conferred by the Congress, made an allowable judgment at the time the curfew restriction was imposed. Whether such a restriction is valid today is another matter.

In voting for affirmance of the judgment I do not wish to be understood as intimating that the military authorities in time of war are subject to no restraints whatsoever, or that they are free to impose any restrictions they may choose on the rights and liberties of individual citizens or groups of citizens in those places which may be designated as 'military areas'. While this Court sits, it has the inescapable duty of seeing that the mandates of the Constitution are obeyed. That duty exists in time of war as well as in time of peace, and in its performance we must not forget that few indeed have been the invasions upon essential liberties which have not been accompanied by pleas of urgent necessity advanced in good faith by responsible men. Cf. Mr. Justice Brandeis concurring in Whitney v. Cal fornia, 274 U.S. 357, 372, 47 S.Ct. 641, 647, 71 L.Ed. 1095.

Nor do I mean to intimate that citizens of a particular racial group whose freedom may be curtailed within an area threatened with attack should be generally prevented from leaving the area and going at large in other areas that are not in danger of attack and where special precautions are not needed. Their status as citizens, though subject to requirements of national security and military necessity, should at all times be accorded the fullest consideration and respect. When the danger is past, the restrictions imposed on them should be promptly removed and their freedom of action fully restored.


^1  Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 39 S.Ct. 247, 63 L.Ed. 470; Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211, 39 S.Ct. 252, 63 L.Ed. 566; United States v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 315 U.S. 289, 305, 62 S.Ct. 581, 589, 86 L.Ed. 855; Northern Pac. Ry. Co. v. North Dakota, 250 U.S. 135, 39 S.Ct. 502, 63 L.Ed. 897; Dakota Cent. Tel. Co. v. South Dakota, 250 U.S. 163, 39 S.Ct. 507, 63 L.Ed. 910, 4 A.L.R. 1623; Highland v. Russell Car & Snow-plow Co., 279 U.S. 253, 49 S.Ct. 314, 73 L.Ed. 688; Selective Draft Law Cases (Arver v. United States), 245 U.S. 366, 38 S.Ct. 159, 62 L.Ed. 349, L.R.A.1918C, 361, Ann.Cas.1918B, 856.

^2  For instance, if persons of an accused's race were systematically excluded from a jury in a federal court, any conviction undoubtedly would be considered a violation of the requirement of due process of law, even though the ground commonly stated for setting aside convictions to obtained in state courts is denial of equal protection of the laws. Cf. Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 62 S.Ct. 457, 86 L.Ed. 680, with Smith v. Texas, 311 U.S. 128, 61 S.Ct. 164, 85 L.Ed. 84.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).