Duncan v. Kahanamoku, 327 U.S. 304; 66 S. Ct. 606; 90 L. Ed. 688 (1946)

Duncan v. Kahanamoku, 327 U.S. 304; 66 S. Ct. 606; 90 L. Ed. 688 (1946)

Facts—Immediately following the Pearl Harbor attack, Governor Poindexter of the Territory of Hawaii proclaimed martial law, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, closed the local courts, and turned over the powers of government to the commanding general of the U.S. Army in Hawaii. The president approved the measure, and the military ruled Hawaii until October 24, 1944, with minor relaxations. The procedure aroused much opposition, and suits were brought to test the validity of the convictions of civilians by the military courts. In February 1944, Duncan, a civilian shipfitter employed by the Navy, was convicted of assault for engaging in a brawl with two Marine sentries. He was tried by a military tribunal rather than by a civil court.

Question—Was the military government of Hawaii valid under the Hawaiian Organic Act?


ReasonsJ. Black (6–2). Civilians in Hawaii are entitled to their constitutional privilege of a fair trial. In 1900, when Congress passed the Hawaiian Organic Act, it never intended to overstep the boundaries of military and civilian power. Martial law was never intended, in the meaning of the act, to supersede the civilian courts, but only to come to the assistance of the government, and maintain the defense of the island.

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