How to read a supreme court case and korematsu 911


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How to read a supreme court case and korematsu 911

  1. 1. How to Read a Supreme Court CaseThe title of each case tells us who the two parties are in a case. The first name is the one who brought theappeal to the Supreme Court. Thus, in Marbury v. Madison, Marbury appealed to the Supreme Court toremedy his problem.The citation of a case tells you much pertinent information about a case, including what court wrote theopinion, the year, volume and page number of the decision. For example, Lemon v. Kurtzman has a citationof 403 U.S. 602 (1971). This means that in volume 403 of U.S. Reports on page 602, you will find the textof that case. The Supreme Court has a system of "parallel citation" meaning that there are three differentplaces (sets of books) where you can find the case. The three are U.S. Reports (U.S), Supreme CourtReporter (S.Ct.) and Lawyers Edition (L.Ed.). The text of the case is exactly the same in all three places. o Parallel Citation for Lemon: 403 U.S. 602 (1971), 91 S.Ct. 2105 (1971), 29 L.Ed. 745 (1971)Usually, you will find the case followed by all three citations to make it easy for you to find the case nomatter what set of books you prefer.You should try to use the proper form for citation when you are writing your case summaries, just for thepractice.When you begin reading a case, the first section usually will be about the facts. This will be a short (andsometimes not so short) summary of what happened in the case. Facts are important to judges, sosometimes this section can be quite extensive.The next section of the case (and probably the biggest section) will concern the ruling that the Court ismaking concerning the law. Usually these sections will be labeled to show when different topics are beingdiscussed. In Roberts v. Madigan, for example, you will find sections on the Establishment Clause and onthe Free Speech Clause, as well as a section on standing and costs. When you are reading precedents, then,you may be able to read "selectively" in order to find the material relevant to Roberts v. Madigan. That is,if there is a section on standing or procedure or some other aspect of law not at issue in Roberts v.Madigan, you dont need to read it.Finally, cases tend to conclude with a short statement as to what happens in the case. The majorpossibilities: o Affirm (the court agrees with the lower court) o Reverse (the court disagreed with the lower court and changed the ruling) o Reverse and remand (the court disagreed, but is sending it back --remanding it -- to the lower court for further action consistent with the new opinion)Important NOTE: When you read Supreme Court Reporter (S.Ct.) cases, you may find that they have many"notes" at the beginning. These are "lawyer cliff notes" and are NOT part of the opinion. These are notusually of much use to you a this level, and you can safely ignore them.There are a number of different types of opinons that you may read, including majority opinions,concurring opinions, dissenting opinions, plurality opinions. Be aware of what type you are reading and theprecedential value of each one:
  2. 2. -This is the most important opinion of all the opinions issued because this opinion has a majority of the judges agreeing in both the judgment of the court and the legal reasoningmajority opinion behind the judgment. As such, this type of opinion carries the most weight of precedential authority. Typically only one Justice delivers the "opinion of the court," and the other Justices join in the opinion by signing on. When no one opinion has a majority of the Justices willing to sign on, the Court is fragmented about the legal reasoning and the outcome of the decision. As such, the different points thatplurality opinion Justices want to make may be divided among different opinions rendered by the Justices. In essence, the plurality opinion is just the one opinion that has the most number of Justices that were willing to agree to it. It is sometimes called the "judgment of the Court." These opinions are additional opinions written by other Justices because one of the Justices in the majority wants to clarify some or all of the legal reasoning proffered by the majority opinion. The concurring Justice is essentially agreeing with the outcome of the opinion, butconcurring opinion may disagree with some of the specific arguments presented by the majority opinion, or the Justice may want to express some reservations about how far the majority opinion goes in establishing the rule of law that is handed down. When the Justices hear a case, they are not only deciding who will win and who will lose, but they are trying to establish the legal reasoning as to why one outcome is preferred over another. As such, the Justices may agree that one party should win, but they may disagree about why. In these instances, one or more Justices may render a concurring in judgmentconcurring in opinion to clarify why they voted with the majority, but also why they disagree with the legaljudgment opinion reasoning behind the majority opinion. These opinions are authored by Justices who are considered "swing votes" because without the one Justice agreeing with the judgment, the other Justices would not have enough votes to render a judgment. These opinions have weight as precedent because the opinion offers alternative legal reasoning that can be used in future cases. These opinions are usually delivered when a Justice agrees with the legal reasoning of the majority opinion, but disagrees about how the legal reasoning applies to the case in terms ofconcurring in part deciding who wins and who loses. The Justice may use the exact same legal framework reliedand dissenting in upon by the majority opinion, but uses that reasoning to argue that the outcome of the decisionpart opinion (the judgment) should be different. Note that the Justice may only agree in part with the legal reasoning. These are the losers! The dissenting opinion is issued by the Justices who do not agree with the majority opinion and have decided to write their own opinion about what they believe thedissenting opinion outcome and the legal reasoning should be in a particular case. The precedential weight of these cases is very limited because the Court did not agree with the dissent.per curiam This is a decision that is unsigned that is usually thought to be less important than opinions thatdecision are signed. Often these decisions are made "summarily," that is, without oral argument.
  3. 3. Korematsu Takes on Bush and Guantanamo Bay Internment CampBy Jonathan TurleyFirst published by the Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2003Editors note: Fred Korematsu died on March 30, 2005. The Seattle Times immediately published thisstory on his death, which also offers a thorough overview of his case in the 1940s and its resolution twodecades ago.Largely unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of politics, a quiet and frail 82-year-old man made a symbolic return toWashington, D.C., this month.His name is Fred Korematsu, and his name graces one of the most infamous decisions ever rendered by the U.S.Supreme Court, the 1944 case of Korematsu vs. United States. With that decision, Korematsu was sent to internmentcamps to join 120,000 other Japanese Americans who were imprisoned solely because of their ethnicity.Recently, Korematsu filed a brief before that same court on behalf of hundreds of Muslims being held atGuantanamo Bay, Cuba. For Korematsu and thousands of camp survivors, one of the darkest and most painfulchapters of American history is repeating itself.The Korematsu case has been largely taught in law schools as an abomination, a case in which the Supreme Courtyielded to fear and pressure in sending tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children into camps.Then came 9/11.Soon, the Bush administration was relying on the arguments from the Korematsu case to assert the same authorityexercised by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to put individuals into detention without trial or access to thecourts.The administration has further argued that the president may do with the Guantanamo detainees as he wishes,including executing them under his own set of rules and standards.By locating the camp in Cuba, the president holds that his actions are no longer controlled by constitutional law.Despite the fact that Guantanamo Bay is a sealed, highly armed U.S. military base, the court has previously held thatit is legally "foreign" territory under the control of Cuban President Fidel Castro.Of course, unlike World War II, there is no declared war against a nation-state. Rather, the president has declaredwar on terrorism, which is a category of crime. Under this interpretation, any president could declare such a war andclaim wartime authority to indefinitely detain people and even execute them without access to the courts.Korematsu has heard much of this before -- 60 years ago.In 1942, he was 22 years old and had twice tried to enlist in the Army to serve his country, only to be turned downfor a physical disability. On Feb. 19, 1942, Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066, giving the militarysWestern Defense Command the authority to issue any orders that it deemed necessary to protect the nation -- thelegal basis for the camps.Korematsu desperately fought to remain free. He changed his name to Clyde and underwent eyelid surgery to lookless Asian. It didnt work. He was arrested and thrown into a race-track horse stall to await "processing."These are events that most Americans thought could never happen again. After all, Korematsu was given the Medalof Freedom in 1998 (the highest U.S. civilian honor) for his fight against internment, and Congress awardedreparations to the Japanese Americans sent to the camps. President Bushs father, President George H.W. Bush,apologized to Japanese Americans on behalf of the U.S.Yet, last year, Korematsu, who lives in Northern California, watched as hundreds of people were sent to a camp inCuba without hearings required under international law or access to U.S. courts. He watched as U.S. citizens were
  4. 4. being stripped of their constitutional rights as "enemy combatants" and held in this country effectively as non-persons.A new president was citing a new threat, but the claim of absolute power remained.That is when Korematsu resolved to go back before the court that had failed him and thousands of other citizensdecades before. His statement to the court in his brief is simple: "[t]o avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, thiscourt should make clear that the United States respects fundamental constitutional and human rights -- even in timeof war."The return of Fred Korematsu should be a source of great shame for members of the Supreme Court.Although other justices penned the 1944 decision, the institution failed the primary test of an independent judiciary:the ability to stand before the mob and to refuse to give legitimacy to racist impulse. Rather than being the bulwarkagainst hate, the court became its vehicle.After the 1944 opinion, some on the court regretted their actions, and the California attorney general who advocatedmass internment, Earl Warren (later a chief justice of the Supreme Court), described himself as "conscience-stricken" over his role on the camps.Warrens regrets, however, are not apparently shared by some members of the current court, particularly ChiefJustice William Rehnquist. In his 1998 book, "All the Laws but One," Rehnquist defended the basis for theKorematsu decision and stated menacingly that "[t]here is no reason to think ... that future justices of the SupremeCourt will decide questions differently."While agreeing that some criticism of the 1944 ruling might be warranted, Rehnquist seems to endorse a variationon the ancient maxim inter arma silent leges -- "in times of war, the law is silent." Rehnquist suggests that whilelaws may "not be silent in times of war ... they will speak with a somewhat different voice."That is a voice that Korematsu has already heard.