344 U.S. 133 (1952), 15, Mandoli v. Acheson

Docket Nº:No. 15
Citation:344 U.S. 133, 73 S.Ct. 135, 97 L.Ed. 146
Party Name:Mandoli v. Acheson
Case Date:November 24, 1952
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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344 U.S. 133 (1952)

73 S.Ct. 135, 97 L.Ed. 146

Mandoli

v.

Acheson

No. 15

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 24, 1952

Argued October 17, 1952

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. Under the Expatriation Act of 1907, a United States citizen by birth who by foreign law derives from his parents citizenship of a foreign nation held not to have lost his United States citizenship by foreign residence long continued after attaining his majority. Pp. 135-139.

(a) In such case, the native-born citizen, by continuing to reside in the foreign country after attaining his majority, cannot be deemed to have elected between his dual citizenships in favor of that of the foreign country; and, when he attained his majority, he was under no statutory duty to make an election and to return to this country for permanent residence if he elected United States citizenship. Pp. 135-139.

(b) Perkins v. Elg, 307 U.S. 325, is not to the contrary. Pp. 138-139.

(c) The dignity of citizenship which the United States Constitution confers as a birthright upon every person born within its protection is not to be withdrawn or extinguished by the courts except pursuant to a clear statutory mandate. P. 139.

2. One of the grounds of decision relied on by the District Court, based on the citizen's having served in the army of the foreign country and taken an oath of allegiance to that country, was abandoned by the Government, the Attorney General having ruled that such service and oath had been taken under legal compulsion amounting to duress. P. 135.

90 U.S.App.D.C. 1121, 193 F.2d 920, reversed.

In an action brought by petitioner to establish his citizenship, the District Court gave judgment against him. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 90 U.S.App.D.C. 1121, 193 F.2d 920. This Court granted certiorari. 343 U.S. 976. Reversed, p. 139.

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JACKSON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents but a single question, upon which petitioner and the Government are substantially agreed that the judgment of the Court of Appeals should be reversed.1 Does a United States citizen by birth who by foreign law derives from his parents citizenship of a foreign nation lose his United States citizenship by foreign residence long continued after attaining his majority?

Petitioner Mandoli was born in this country, of unnaturalized Italian parents. These circumstances made him a citizen of the United States by virtue of our Constitution, and a national of Italy by virtue of Italian law. While he was a suckling, his parents returned to Italy, taking him with them. At about the age of fifteen, he sought to come to the United States, but [73 S.Ct. 136] permission was refused by the American Consul at Palermo upon the ground that he was too young to take the journey unaccompanied.

In 1931, Mandoli saw brief service in the Italian army. In 1937, being 29 or 30 years of age, he attempted to come to the United States, but was rejected because of such army service. He renewed the effort in 1944, with the same result. In 1948, he was granted a certificate of identity which permitted him to enter the United

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States for prosecution of an action to establish his citizenship.

Judgment in the District Court went against him on the ground that expatriation had resulted from two causes: first, contrary to his contentions, it found that his service in the Italian army was voluntary, and that he then took an oath of allegiance to the King of Italy; second, that he continued to reside in Italy after attaining his majority, thereby electing between his dual citizenships in favor of that of Italy.2

The Government abandoned the first ground because the Attorney General ruled that such service in the Italian army by one similarly situated could "only be regarded as having been taken under legal compulsion amounting to duress." He said, "The choice of taking the oath or violating the law was, for a soldier in the army of Fascist Italy, no choice at all."3 The Court of Appeals, however, relying largely on Perkins v. Elg, 307 U.S. 325, affirmed upon the ground that failure to return to the United States upon the attainment of his majority operated to extinguish petitioner's American citizenship.4 We conclude that Mandoli has not lost his citizenship.

It would be as easy as it would be unrewarding to point out conflict in precept and confusion in practice on this side of the Atlantic, where ideas of nationality and expatriation were in ferment during the whole Nineteenth Century. Reception of the common law confronted American courts with a doctrine that a national allegiance into which one was born could be renounced only with consent of his sovereign. European rulers, losing subjects (particularly seamen) to the New World, adhered fiercely to the old doctrine. On the other hand, the

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United States, prospering from the migrant's freedom of choice, became champion of the individual's right to expatriate himself, for which it contended in diplomacy and fought by land and by sea. However, this personal freedom of expatriation was not always recognized by our own courts, because of their deference to common law precedent. Finally, Congress, by the Act of July 27, 1868, declared that

the right of expatriation is a natural and inherent right of all people, indispensable to the enjoyment of the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,

and that

any declaration, instruction, opinion, order, or decision of any officers of this government which denies, restricts, impairs, or questions the right of expatriation is hereby declared inconsistent with the fundamental principles of this government.5

But this statute left unanswered many questions as to the overt acts that would effect a voluntary expatriation by our own citizens or would cause an involuntary forfeiture of citizenship. Prior to 1907, courts and administrators were left to devise their own answers.

Preparatory to legislative action on the subject, Congress sought and received a report of a special citizenship board. Reviewing judicial decisions, this report concluded that the courts recognized well established doctrines of election in cases dealing with rights of person with dual citizenship. This board recommended that...

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