SAN FRANCISCO — “Not to Be Forgotten: Legal Lessons of the Japanese Internment” is the theme of the 2017 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest, an essay and video contest open to high school students in the western U.S. and Pacific Islands.

Entries will be accepted until April 16. First prize is $2,000, second prize is $1,000, and third prize is $500, plus travel and accommodations to attend the 2017 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in San Francisco.

To combat terrorism, some have called upon the 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 U.S. 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 camps in remote areas of California, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Arkansas and other states.

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 fourth case, Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, also decided in 1944, the court ruled that “citizens who are concededly loyal” could not be held in detention camps. The decision resulted in the immediate release of a Japanese American woman and led eventually to the closure of the camps.

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

The contest has two components: 1) Individual students can express their thoughts and ideas in an essay of between 500 and 1,000 words; 2) Individuals and teams of up to three students can produce a 3- to 5-minute 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 incarceration 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.

The Ninth Circuit Civics Contest is open to high school students at all grade levels and to home-schooled students of equivalent grade status. Students from public, private, parochial and charter schools may enter. The contest is organized by the Ninth Circuit Courts and Community Committee and co-sponsored by the federal courts within the Ninth Circuit. Contest winners will be announced in June. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers in both the essay and video competitions.

For more information, contact the Ninth Circuit Office of the Circuit Executive at (415) 355-8973 or, or visit

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