Ex parte Mitsuye Endo

Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 1944

Ruling: 9-0, United States Supreme Court

Mitsuye Endo, a native of Sacramento, CA, was the only female resister of Executive Order 9066 whose case reached the Supreme Court, and Endo’s case was the only internment case for which the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the plaintiff. While incarcerated in the Tule Lake concentration camp in Northern California, Endo was contacted by civil liberties attorney James Purcell and asked to challenge her detention. With a brother in the U.S. Army and no connections to the Japanese government, Endo, previously a clerical worker for the state of California, was considered a perfect case for protesting detention. Purcell filed a habeas corpus petition on her behalf in 1942 [i]. The petition was denied after one year and Ms. Endo was moved to the Central Utah Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah. While in Topaz, her petition was appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually brought before the Supreme Court, which unanimously decided in her favor.

Both Ms. Endo’s petition and Mr. Korematsu’s case forced federal authorities to re-examine the constitutionality of Exclusion Order 9066.  On October 11, 1944, the Supreme Court heard both Ms. Endo and Mr. Korematsu’s cases.  However, the Court’s announcement of their decision of the Endo case was delayed until December 18, 1944 – conveniently one day after Public Proclamation No. 21 was issued by Roosevelt announcing the Western Defense Command’s end to the exclusion order. The timing reflected that the President, rather than the Court, ended incarceration first[ii]. The Court concluded that, given her loyalty to the United States, the government could not continue to detain Mitsuye Endo in the concentration camps, but did not state that the original incarceration conviction against Endo was wrong [iii]. This decision by the United States Supreme Court officially re-opened the West Coast for people of Japanese ancestry for resettlement.

Ms. Endo spent the rest of her life in Chicago, where she worked as a secretary and raised three children with her husband, Kenneth Tsutsumi. She passed away in 2006 at the age of 85.


[i] CUNY. “Mitsuye Endo Persevering for Justice” http://www1.cuny.edu/portal_ur/content/womens_leadership/mitsuye_endo.html (accessed August 24, 2011)

[ii] “Japanese American Evacuation Cases”, 2011. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Japanese+American+Evacuation+Cases

[iii] Ex Parte Mitsuye Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944). 323 U.S. 283. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=323&invol=283 (accesses August 24, 2011).