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Ex parte Endo

Ex parte Endo
Argued October 12, 1944
Decided December 18, 1944
Full case name Ex parte Mitsuye Endo
Citations 323 U.S. 283 (more)
The government cannot detain a citizen without charge when the government itself concedes she is loyal to the United States.
Court membership
</td></tr><tr><th colspan="2" style="text-align:center;background-color: #99c0ff; white-space:nowrap">Case opinions</th></tr><tr><th scope="row" style="text-align:left">Majority</th><td>

Douglas, joined by unanimous court</td></tr><tr><th scope="row" style="text-align:left">Concurrence</th><td> Murphy</td></tr><tr><th scope="row" style="text-align:left">Concurrence</th><td> Roberts</td></tr></table> Ex parte Endo, or Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944),[1] was a United States Supreme Court decision handed down on December 18, 1944, in which the Justices unanimously ruled that the U.S. government could not continue to detain a citizen who was "concededly loyal" to the United States. Although the Court did not touch on the constitutionality of the exclusion of people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast — which they had, contradictorily, found not to violate citizen rights in their same day Korematsu v. United States decision — the Endo ruling nonetheless led to the reopening of the West Coast to Japanese Americans after their incarceration in camps across the U.S. interior during World War II.

The Court also found as part of this decision that, if Congress is found to have ratified by appropriation any part of an executive agency program, the bill doing so must include a specific item referring to that portion of the program.


Mitsuye Endo, the plaintiff in the case, had worked as a clerk for the California Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento prior to the war. After the attack on Pearl Harbor soured public sentiment toward Japanese Americans, Endo and other Nisei state employees were harassed and eventually fired because of their Japanese ancestry.[2] Civil rights attorney and then-president of the Japanese American Citizens League Saburo Kido, with San Francisco attorney James Purcell, began a legal campaign to assist these workers, but the mass removal authorized by Executive Order 9066 in early 1942 complicated their case. Endo was selected as a test case to file a writ of habeas corpus because of her profile as an Americanized, "assimilated" Nisei: a practicing Christian who had never been to Japan, spoke only English and no Japanese, and had a brother in the U.S. Army.[2][3]

On July 13, 1942, Purcell filed the habeas corpus petition for Endo's release from the Tule Lake concentration camp where she and her family were being held. Judge Michael J. Roche heard Endo's case in July 1942 but did not issue a ruling until July 1943, when he denied her petition without explanation. An appeal was perfected to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in August 1943, and in April 1944 Judge William Denman sent the case to the Supreme Court rather than issuing a ruling himself.[2] By this time Endo had been transferred to Topaz, Utah — Tule Lake having been converted to a segregated detention center for "disloyal" Japanese American inmates. The War Relocation Authority had offered to release her from camp (provided she agreed not to return to the West Coast) in an effort to halt the case, but Endo refused and so remained in confinement.[2]

Endo, Korematsu, and the end of internment

The unanimous opinion ruling in Endo's favor was written by Justice William O. Douglas, with Justices Frank Murphy and Owen Roberts concurring. It stopped short of addressing the question of the government's right to exclude citizens based on military necessity, instead focusing on the actions of the WRA: "In reaching that conclusion [that Endo should be freed] we do not come to the underlying constitutional issues which have been argued... [W]e conclude that, whatever power the War Relocation Authority may have to detail other classes of citizens, it has no authority to subject citizens who are concededly loyal to its leave procedure."[1]

Because of this avoidance, it is very difficult to reconcile Endo with Korematsu, which was decided the same day. As Justice Roberts pointed out in his Korematsu dissent, distinguishing the cases required a reliance on the legal fiction that Korematsu only dealt with the exclusion of Japanese Americans, not their detention — that Fred Korematsu could have gone anywhere else in the United States, when in reality he would have been subject to the detainment found illegal in Endo.[4] In short, while Endo determined that a citizen could not be imprisoned if the government was unable to prove she was disloyal, Korematsu allowed the government a loophole to criminally punish that citizen for refusing to be illegally imprisoned.[5]

The Roosevelt administration, having been alerted to the Court's decision, issued Public Proclamation No. 21 the day before the Endo and Korematsu rulings were made public, on December 17, 1944, rescinding the exclusion orders and declaring that Japanese Americans could begin returning to the West Coast in January 1945.[5]

Mitsuye Endo's Postwar Life

After the war, Endo would eventually settle in Chicago, IL. In May, 2015, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) sent a letter to President Obama recommending Endo for a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b 323 U.S. 283 (Full transcript of Ex parte Endo decision courtesy of
  2. ^ a b c d Brian Niiya. "Ex parte Endo" Densho Encyclopedia (accessed 5 June 2014).
  3. ^ Fred T. Korematsu Institute, "Ex parte Mitsuye Endo" (accessed 5 June 2014).
  4. ^ Paul Finkelman, "The Japanese Internment Cases." Historic U.S. Court Cases: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, ed. John W. Johnson (Taylor & Francis, 2001) pp722-31.
  5. ^ a b Shiho Imai. "Korematsu v. United States" Densho Encyclopedia (accessed 5 June 2014).
  6. ^