There have been several case rulings that have been identified as controversial. Some of these have been regarded as exemplars of bad legal decision making. Two examples of these anti canons include the Komatsu V United States case and Hamdi v Rumsfeld case. Neither of these cases can be a precedent. In showing how these cases fail to form precedents, we shall delve into the facts of the cases; the legal controversy thereby revealed as well as the changes in the decisions afterward as a way of repairing the harm done by the initial ruling. To help us in these, we shall look at two scholars namely, Simon et al., 2002 and Singh et al., 2016.
On February 19, 1942, early in world War II, the then president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, issued and executive order. This required that military commanders identify military areas from which all persons will be barred from. Southern Arizona and coastal areas stretching from Washington were identified as critical to domestic security. Followingly, all persons of Japanese descent irrespective of their nationalities were ordered to leave their homes and head to internment camps for the duration of the war. The order targeted persons of Japanese descent because of the military feared that they were loyal to the Japanese government which had attacked the US base in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, without warning. The death had led to the death of more than 2000 Americans. Korematsu, a citizen of the United States but Japanese descent failed to comply with the order by failing to leave his home in San Leandro, California. He was convicted. This is a classical example of a government applying strict scrutiny to racial discrimination (Sigh et al. 52).
In appealing his case, Korematsu challenged the order, and his case was heard by the supreme court. He sought to have the court safeguard his rights as guaranteed by the fifth amendment and on the writ of habeas corpus. He sought to vacate his 1942 conviction as well as do away with the disloyalty imprinted by the ruling on the community of Japanese Americans. The original ruling by the supreme court had applied strict scrutiny to racial discrimination. The court's decision had asserted that the constitution's promise of equal rights was outweighed by the military urgency of the time. The ruling was also backed by the Hirabayashi v. United States precedent. The decision of the case denied that racial prejudice had anything to do with the case. In his appeal, Korematsu
The order was thus asserted to have been constitutional because of military urgency and national security. The court's ruling led to some dissenting views. For instance, Justice Owen Roberts is of the opinion that there was a clear violation of Korematsu's constitutional rights from the indisputable facts.
Also, Justice Frank Murphy argues that the existence of a state of war does not necessitate the suspension of the broad provisions of the Bill of Rights.
Over the years, the decision of the court having been informed by the American internment policy has been met with criticism. Some legal scholars have termed it as one of the most failures of the court. The decision has been questioned, and the Congress has made several efforts to try and make up for the flaws. In 1988 every survivor of the ten internment camps was awarded $20,000 as restitution payments. Also, on behalf of the American People, Congress apologized for the act. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Korematsu. Legal thoughts and advancements led the court to overturn the original convictions of Korematsu and Hirabayashi. This was after the discovery that the court had received false information that had a material effect in shaping the Supreme court's decision.
Hamdi V Rumsfeld is another controversial Supreme Court case. In this, the court showed cognizance to the U.S government's power to hold enemy combatants including US citizens but goes ahead to say that US detainees should be granted the right to challenge their enemy combatant status. This recognition led to the reversal of a dismissal of habeas corpus by a lower court in the case of Yaser Hamdi. Hamdi, an American citizen, was regarded as an enemy combatant after his capture in Afghanistan shortly after 7/11. At the time of his capture, Afghan was a zone of active combat. Hamdi filed for a habeas corpus after endless motion and counter motions (Simon 204). Michael Mobbs, an advisor to the Undersecretary of Defense, responded by issuing a declaration to outline the government's position in justifying Hamdi's detention. Several judges supported Hamdi's demand for due process in challenging his enemy combatant status as well as for detention. However, there are several dissenting views on the same.
Justice Antonin Scalia asserted that the court had only two options to justify the detainment of Hamdi. Either suspend habeas corpus or try him under ordinary criminal law. He was of the opinion that the executive's power to detain should be restricted. This ruling opened debate on the plurality opinion in regards to detention without charges. This view is flawed because on its insistence on indefinite detainment for purposes of interrogation and prevention of one getting back to the battlefield and also use of force to detain. These purposes have been criticized. This case has led to the development of Military Commissions Act that was signed in 2006. This act seeks to address the serious legal issues that arise in dealing with war detainees.
Notably, these two cases exhibit the tensions that exist between national security interest and individual rights. Later the court ruled in Hamdi's favor by acknowledging that the court had not granted him the due process as guaranteed by the US Constitution. These continuous changes in the original decisions by the courts are clear pointers towards the development of legal thought in balancing between these individual rights and national security interests.
Simon, Kelly E. "Hamdi v. Rumsfeld." Geo. Immigr. LJ 17 (2002): 511.
Singh, Navdeep, and Jasbir K. Bawa. "Suspicious People: Profiling and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders." AAPI Nexus: Policy, Practice and Community 14.2 (2016): 49-62.
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