Ex parte Quirin espionage case

Facts of the Case

Eight German-born U.S. residents were captured by the United States as they tried to enter the country during war time, for the purpose of sabotage, espionage, hostile or warlike acts, or violations under the law of war. The President of the United States held that petitioners were to be tried before a military tribunal under the Articles of War. The 8 captured residents challenged the President’s authority, arguing that under the U.S. Constitution they had a right to demand a jury trial in the civil courts.


Does the warrantless search and seizure of cell phone records, which include the location and movements of cell phone users, violate the Fourth Amendment?


“No. In a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Harlan Fisk Stone, the Court concluded that the conspirators, as spies without uniform whose purpose was sabotage, violated the law of war and were therefore unlawful enemy combatants. Noting that Congress had, under the Articles of War, authorized trial by military commission for unlawful enemy combatants, the Court therefore determined that the President had not exceeded his power. Furthermore, the Court asserted that the Fifth and Sixth Amendments “did not enlarge the right to jury trial” beyond those cases where it was understood by the framers to have been appropriate. Therefore, because the amendments cannot be read “as either abolishing all trials by military tribunals, save those of the personnel of our own armed forces, or, what in effect comes to the same thing, as imposing on all such tribunals the necessity of proceeding against unlawful enemy belligerents only on presentment and trial by jury,” the rights of the conspirators were not violated.”

Case Information

Citation: 317 US 1 (1942)
Argued: Jul 29 – 30, 1942
Decided: Jul 31, 1942
Case Brief: 1942