Korematsu v. US: The Frank Murphy Dissent Against Legalization of Racism
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June 21, 2021
Westchester County Bar Association
Frank Murphy was a Michigander unafraid to speak truth to power. Born in 1890, he was raised on the shores of Lake Huron and rose to become Mayor of Detroit, Governor of Michigan, and finally a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. One of the most important politicians in Michigan’s history, Murphy was known for his passionate defense of the common man, earning him the pun “tempering justice with Murphy.”
Murphy is best remembered for his immense legal contributions supporting individual liberty and fighting discrimination, particularly discrimination against the most vulnerable. Despite being a loyal ally of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when FDR ordered the removal of Japanese Americans during World War II, Supreme Court Justice Murphy condemned the policy as “racist” in a scathing dissent to the Korematsu v. United States decision—the first use of the word in a Supreme Court opinion. Every American, whether arriving by first class or in chains in the galley of a slave ship, fell under Murphy’s definition of those entitled to the full benefits of the American dream.
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