Legal History

Acting SG Katyal Tells of Mistakes by a Predecessor in World War II Internment Case


Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal is condemning mistakes made by a predecessor who defended the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Katyal made his statement in a “distinctly 21st century way”—through a post at The Justice Blog, the Associated Press reports. The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times also has the story. Katyal criticized former Solicitor General Charles Fahy for misleading the U.S. Supreme Court in 1943 and 1944 when he defended the convictions of Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu for violating an order to report to an internment camp.

Katyal says Fahy failed to tell the U.S. Supreme Court about an intelligence report that found only a small percentage of Japanese-Americans posed a security threat, and the most dangerous were already known or in custody. Fahy also failed to tell the court that reports of radio communications between Japanese-Americans and enemy submarines had been largely discredited, Katyal writes.

The Supreme Court upheld the convictions of Hirabayashi and Korematsu, and it took nearly a half century to overturn them. Both stories quote University of California political scientist Peter Irons, who in 1981 unearthed the documents showing Fahy’s omissions. “It’s very nice, and long overdue,” he told The BLT.

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