Matthew Stanford

  • February 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Matthew Stanford

    Though widely considered a dark stain on the fabric of American history, the Supreme Court’s decision in Korematsu v. United States more than 70 years ago lives on. In Korematsu, the Supreme Court upheld President Roosevelt’s executive order for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Today, the decision’s influence moves virtually undetected through the parlance of executive authority. The immense power of the president in times of “emergency and peril” has affixed itself to our constitutional DNA. The imperial presidency is not just taken for granted. It is assumed.

    The thought of another Korematsu is not far-fetched. The current administration cites an always-imminent threat of terrorism to support a religiously motivated travel ban, a supposed spike in violent crime to expand stop-and-frisk in minority neighborhoods and an invisible invasion of drug dealers and rapists from our southern border to justify mass deportation. If we are to avoid repeating history, progressives cannot afford to be short-sighted. Political victory alone does little to mend the constitutional wounds that Korematsu left behind.

    Critics of the Supreme Court decision often cite the depth to which then-Governor Earl Warren would later come to regret allowing the “cruelty of war” to cloud his better judgment. As if to say things would be different today. Regret, however, does not erase the past, much less Korematsu’s abiding tear in our constitutional fabric. Indeed, Justice Hugo Black, the opinion’s author, maintained decades later that he “would do precisely the same thing today.” And former Chief Justice William Rehnquist minced no words about executive authority to limit civil liberties being at its nadir “in time of war.”

  • October 12, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Matthew Stanford,  Senior Law Student at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law; Articles & Essays Editor of the California Law Review and President of the ACS Student Chapter at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law

    To the surprise of no one, the first presidential debate was short on substance, long on bluster. But one real issue that emerged from the spin-induced haze was the constitutionality of “stop-and-frisk.”

    During the debate, moderator Lester Holt suggested that the controversial and long used police practice of stopping people on the street and patting them down for weapons had been deemed “unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.”

    An onslaught of Trump and Clinton surrogates followed with their respective positions on the constitutional upshot of U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s 2013 decision.

    Prognostications about the narrow ruling’s certain demise on appeal––that is, if the appeal had continued to fruition––inevitably led to accusations of moderator bias. Most notably, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani penned an op-ed suggesting that the Second Circuit’s removal of Judge Scheindlin from the case amounted to a reversal of her underlying ruling. To be sure, that logic is flawed: removing a judge is an administrative decision, not a ruling on the merits.

    But a more disturbing trend has emerged from the week’s stop-and-frisk chatter. Far from discussing the merits of the decades-old doctrine that allows police discretion to stop people on the street, the campaigns prefer instead to carry on with the punch and parry about moderator bias and candidate performance––sacrificing yet another critical discussion on the altar of media ratings that has come to define contemporary electoral culture.