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Ninth Circuit 2017 Civics Contest
Students, describe the relevance of the Japanese internment today.

Due April 16th, 2017 - To combat terrorism, some have called upon our government to turn away immigrants and visitors who come from particular countries or are followers of certain religious faiths. Others have urged imposing restrictions on such persons already in this country. To students of history, this approach is reminiscent of what occurred 75 years ago as the United States entered into World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Presidential directives issued in February 1942 led to a curfew for people of Japanese descent followed by the forcible relocation of more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent from the West Coast to internment camps in remote areas of California, Idaho and Arizona.

Three young Japanese American men who defied the curfew and relocation policies were criminally prosecuted. In those cases – Yasui v. United States, 1943, Hirabayashi v. United States, 1943, and Korematsu v. United States, 1944 – the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their convictions and the underlying government actions. The decisions in these cases, which required the court to weigh national security against individual rights, were difficult ones and there was strong disagreement at the time over the outcomes. In a third case, Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, also decided in 1944, the court ruled that “citizens who are concededly loyal” could not be held in internment camps. The decision resulted in the immediate release of an interned Japanese American woman and led eventually to the closure of the internment camps.

The topic for the Ninth Circuit Civics Contest is as follows: Consider and describe the relevance of the Japanese internment today as our nation combats terrorism.

Students are asked to relate the legal history of the Japanese internment to the government’s current efforts to protect against terrorist attacks in the U.S. The focus is on the constitutional conflicts that can arise when national security and individual rights are both at stake. Students are advised to concentrate primarily on the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court in Hirabayashi v. United States,1943, Korematsu v. United States, 1944, and Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 1944. Students should demonstrate an understanding of the cases, the nature of the constitutional conflicts involved, and the legal reasoning for the court’s decisions. Students may also consider cultural and societal influences on governmental policy making, both at the time of the internment and today.

The contest has two components: 1) Individual students can express their thoughts and ideas in an essay of between 500 and 1,000 words; and 2) Individuals and teams of up to three students can produce a video on the theme. A student may submit both an essay and video. A student may submit only one essay and be involved in the production of only one video.

Your essay or video should:
 1) Demonstrate an understanding of the history of the internment and its aftermath.
 2) Explain what constitutional powers and rights were brought into conflict by the Hirabayashi, Korematsu and Endo cases.
 3) Discuss the important role of the Judicial Branch – then and now – in resolving constitutional conflicts involving national security and individual rights.

Entries should be from 3 to 5 minutes in length.

Click the link below for Official Rules and more details.


First Place:
$2,000 + Travel and Accommodations to attend the 2017 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in San Francisco, California.

Second Place:

Third Place:

Open to high school students in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, the United States Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Students in the 9th through 12th grades in public, private, parochial and charter schools and home-schooled students of equivalent grade status are invited to participate.

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