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Duncan v. Kahanamoku
United States Supreme Court
327 U.S. 304 (1946)
The federal Hawaiian Organic Act gave Hawaii’s governor the authority to place Hawaii under martial law in case of an imminent or actual invasion. On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was invaded by the Japanese military. Hawaii’s governor immediately placed the territory of Hawaii under martial law, and the territory’s commanding general took political control of Hawaii. The commanding general then closed all civilian courts and replaced them with military tribunals. These military tribunals were not required to follow either civilian-court or court-martial rules, but they could issue punishments as severe as the death penalty. Further, the military tribunals could punish civilian-court personnel for the act of even accepting a petition for a writ of habeas corpus from someone imprisoned by a military tribunal. The commanding general also initially closed down many other civilian activities. However, a few weeks later, some places of amusement were allowed to reopen. Approximately two months after the invasion, bars reopened, and the civilian courts were allowed to reopen for some functions. However, most criminal matters were still required to be tried in military tribunals. Approximately eight months after the invasion, Harry White (plaintiff), a civilian stockbroker, was arrested for embezzlement, and a military tribunal sentenced him to jail. Approximately two years after the invasion, civilian Lloyd Duncan (plaintiff) was arrested for assaulting military sentries, and a military tribunal sentenced him to jail. Martial law was finally lifted in late 1944. White and Duncan both filed petitions for writs of habeas corpus in federal district court, arguing that the military had lacked authority to try them in military tribunals. The district court granted the petitions, but the appellate court reversed the ruling and denied the petitions. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the issue.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Black, J.)
Concurrence (Stone, C.J.)
Concurrence (Murphy, J.)
Dissent (Burton, J.)
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