328 U.S. 654 (1946), 510, Knauer v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 510
Citation:328 U.S. 654, 66 S.Ct. 1304, 90 L.Ed. 1500
Party Name:Knauer v. United States
Case Date:June 10, 1946
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 654

328 U.S. 654 (1946)

66 S.Ct. 1304, 90 L.Ed. 1500

Knauer

v.

United States

No. 510

United States Supreme Court

June 10, 1946

Argued March 28, 29, 1946

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. In a proceeding under § 338 of the Nationality Act of 1940 to revoke an order admitting petitioner to citizenship and to cancel his certificate of naturalization on the ground of fraud in their procurement, there was solid, convincing evidence that, before the date of his naturalization, at that time, and subsequently, he was a thoroughgoing Nazi and a faithful follower of Adolph Hitler.

Held. the conclusion is irresistible that, when petitioner forswore allegiance to the German Reich, he swore falsely, and the revocation of the decree of naturalization is sustained. Pp. 660-669, 674.

2. The standard of proof required in such proceedings is strict. Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U.S. 118; Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S. 665. P. 657.

3. In reviewing such a proceeding, this Court does not accept even concurrent findings of the two lower courts as conclusive, but reexamines the facts to determine whether the United States has carried the burden of proving its case by "clear, unequivocal, and convincing" evidence, which does not leave "the issue in doubt." Id. Pp. 657-658.

4. Citizenship obtained through naturalization is not a second-class citizenship. P. 658.

5. It carries with it the privileges of full participation in the affairs of our society, including the right to speak freely, to criticize officials and administrators, and to promote changes in our laws, including the very Charter of our Government. P. 658.

Page 655

6. Great tolerance and caution are necessary lest good faith exercise of the rights of citizenship be turned against the naturalized citizen and used to deprive him of the cherished status. P. 658.

7. Ill-tempered expressions, extreme views, even the promotion of ideas which run counter to our American ideals, are not to be given disloyal connotations in the absence of solid, convincing evidence that that is their significance. P. 658.

g. Utterances made in years subsequent to the oath of allegiance are not readily to be charged against the state of mind existing when the oath was administered. P. 659.

9. The fundamental question is whether the new citizen still takes his orders from, or owes his allegiance to, a foreign chancellory. P. 659.

10. Membership in the German-American Bund is not, in itself, sufficient to prove fraud which would warrant revocation of a decree of naturalization. P. 669.

11. The issue of fraud in the oath of allegiance taken by an alien upon admission to citizenship cannot become res judicata in the order admitting him to citizenship, since it was not in issue and neither was adjudicated nor could have been adjudicated in the naturalization proceedings. P. 671.

12. When an alien takes the oath of allegiance with reservations or does not in good faith forswear loyalty and allegiance to the old country, the decree of naturalization is obtained by a fraud on the naturalization court, and this is a proper ground for cancellation of the naturalization. Pp. 671-673.

13. There can be no doubt of the power of Congress to provide for the cancellation of certificates of naturalization on the ground of fraud in their procurement. Pp. 673-674.

149 F.2d 519, affirmed.

A District Court cancelled petitioner's certificate of naturalization and revoked the order admitting him to citizenship on the ground that they had been procured by fraud. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 149 F.2d 519. This Court granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 714. Affirmed, p. 674.

Page 656

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Knauer is a native of Germany. He arrived in this country in 1925, at the age of 30. He had served in the German army during World War I, and was decorated. He had studied law and economics in Germany. He settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and conducted an insurance business there. He filed his declaration of intention to become a citizen in 1929, and his petition for naturalization in 1936. He took his oath of allegiance and was admitted to citizenship on April 13, 1937. In 1943, the United States instituted proceedings under § 338(a) of the Nationality Act of 1940, 54 Stat. 1137, 1158, 8 U.S.C. § 738(a), to cancel his certificate of naturalization1 on the ground that it had been secured by fraud in that (1) he had falsely and fraudulently represented in his petition that he was attached to the principles of the Constitution, and (2) he had taken a false oath of allegiance. The District Court was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Knauer practiced fraud when he obtained his certificate of naturalization. It found that he had not been and is not attached to the principles of the Constitution, and that he took a false oath of allegiance. It accordingly

Page 657

entered an order cancelling his certificate and revoking the order admitting him to citizenship. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 149 F.2d 519. The case is here on a petition for a writ of certiorari which we granted to examine that ruling in light of our decisions in Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U.S. 118, and Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S. 665.

I. In the oath of allegiance which Knauer took, he swore that he would

absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly to the German Reich,

that he would "support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;" that he would "bear true faith and allegiance to the same," and that he took "this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion."2 The first and crucial issue in the case is whether Knauer swore falsely and committed a fraud when he promised under oath to forswear allegiance to the German Reich and to transfer his allegiance to this nation. Fraud connotes perjury, falsification, concealment, misrepresentation. When denaturalization is sought on this (Baumgartner v. United States, supra), as well as on other grounds (Schneiderman v. United States, supra), the standard of proof required is strict. We do not accept even concurrent findings of two lower courts as conclusive. Baumgartner v. United States, supra, pp. 670-671. We reexamine the facts to determine whether the [66 S.Ct. 1307] United States has carried its burden of proving by "clear, unequivocal, and convincing" evidence, which does not leave "the issue in doubt," that the citizen

Page 658

who is sought to be restored to the status of an alien obtained his naturalization certificate illegally. Schneiderman v. United States, supra, p. 158.

That strict test is necessary for several reasons. Citizenship obtained through naturalization is not a second-class citizenship. It has been said that citizenship carries with it all of the rights and prerogatives of citizenship obtained by birth in this country "save that of eligibility to the Presidency." Luria v. United States, 231 U.S. 9, 22. There are other exceptions of a limited character.3 But it is plain that citizenship obtained through naturalization carries with it the privilege of full participation in the affairs of our society, including the right to speak freely, to criticize officials and administrators, and to promote changes in our laws, including the very Charter of our Government. Great tolerance and caution are necessary lest good faith exercise of the rights of citizenship be turned against the naturalized citizen and be used to deprive him of the cherished status. Ill-tempered expressions, extreme views, even the promotion of ideas which run counter to our American ideals, are not to be given disloyal connotations in absence of solid, convincing evidence that that is their significance. Any other course would run counter to our traditions, and make denaturalization proceedings the ready instrument for political persecutions. As stated in Schneiderman v. United States, supra, p. 159,

Were the law otherwise, valuable rights would rest upon a slender reed, and the security of the status of our naturalized citizens might depend in

Page 659

considerable degree upon the political temper of majority thought and the stresses of the times.

These are extremely serious problems. They involve not only fundamental principles of our political system designed for the protection of minorities and majorities alike. They also involve tremendously high stakes for the individual. For denaturalization, like deportation, may result in the loss "of all that makes life worth living." Ng Fung Ho v. White, 259 U.S. 276, 284. Hence, where the fate of a human being is at stake, we must not leave the presence of his evil purpose to conjecture. Cf. Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135, 149. Furthermore, we are dealing in cases of this kind with questions of intent. Here, it is whether Knauer swore falsely on April 13, 1937. Intent is a subjective state, illusory and difficult to establish in absence of voluntary confession. What may appear objectively to be false may still fall short of establishing an intentional misrepresentation, which is necessary in order to prove that the oath was perjurious. And, as Baumgartner v. United States, supra, indicates, utterances made in years subsequent to the oath are not readily to be charged against the state of mind existing when the oath was administered. 322 U.S. p. 675. Troubled times and the emotions of the hour may elicit expressions of sympathy for old acquaintances and relatives...

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