Meyer v. United States, 10647.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtHUTCHESON, HOLMES, and LEE, Circuit
Citation141 F.2d 825
Docket NumberNo. 10647.,10647.
Decision Date02 May 1944

141 F.2d 825 (1944)


No. 10647.

Circuit Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

April 5, 1944.

Rehearing Denied May 2, 1944.

Bernard A. Golding and William M. Hatten, both of Houston, Tex., for appellant.

Miles L. Moss, of Houston, Tex., for appellee.

Before HUTCHESON, HOLMES, and LEE, Circuit Judges.

HUTCHESON, Circuit Judge.

From a judgment entered against him in a denaturalization proceeding1 brought to cancel his certificate for fraud in its procurement, defendant has appealed. Born of war hysteria and ideological conflicts, this is another of those fortunately rare proceedings in which an un-American1a intolerance, of opinions not acceptable to the majority, puts our adherence to American constitutional principles not only of tolerance but of justice to the test lest, done mere lip service to, they become a byword and a hissing. In form it was a judicial inquiry begun in September, 1942, and concluded in February, 1943, into whether the defendant, a German born naturalized citizen, had, in 1935, more than seven years before, secured his citizenship by fraud and, therefore, illegally, and because thereof should have his certificate cancelled. Its result was to take his citizenship away (1) because, and only because of his frank assertion before December, 1941, of views which, though entertained and expressed by him at a time when millions of other American citizens, naturalized and native born, were entitled

141 F.2d 826
to, and did, express the same views, were regarded as incompatible with the oath of citizenship he took five years before and, therefore, as proof that he took the oath falsely and in fraud; and (2) because, as he had a statutory2 right to do, he considered, and made inquiries in 1940 regarding, expatriating himself, though he did nothing to effectively carry this out,3 and while the United States was still neutral, completely abandoned the idea

The district judge's findings, conclusions and judgment were handed down before the Supreme Court had, in the Schneiderman case, Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U.S. 118, 63 S.Ct. 1333, 87 L.Ed. 1796, authoritatively rejected the views acted on by some, but by no means all,4 of the inferior federal judges, and never by the Supreme Court; that naturalized, unlike native born, citizens remain indefinitely under judicial tutelage; that because they are naturalized instead of native born citizens, their thoughts and speech are subject to a jealous surveillance, so that in effect their citizenship is held by a tenure no stronger than their ability from time to time to satisfy government inquisitors and judges that their views are, according to accepted formulas, safe and sound.

In assessing the adequacy, therefore, of the district judge's findings to support his ultimate conclusion, and in determining the validity of that conclusion itself, it must be borne in mind that the findings were not made, the conclusions were not drawn with the benefit and in the light of the correct principle the Schneiderman case reaffirmed. In short, they were not made in the light of the principle; that, native born and naturalized citizens, we are one people;5 that United States district attorneys and United States judges are not given surveillance of, inquisitorial powers or suzerainty over, the souls and minds of foreign born citizens; and that citizenship once granted him, a naturalized citizen has the same freedom in thinking and speaking as a native born citizen has. They were made and announced in the light of the aberration from that principle as expressed in the decisions of district judges which the district judge below cited and relied on.6 This aberration, substituting a rule without warrant in statute or authoritative decision, that the naturalized citizen is indefinitely on probation, refuses effect to the correct rule that, since what is under attack is a solemn judgment, of a court possessing and exercising the judicial power of the United States and having the benefit, in the exercise of that power, of expert assistance and advice expressly provided by Congress, entered upon full and exhaustive inquiry after the five years of statutory probation have ended in a grant of citizenship, it may not be overthrown

141 F.2d 827
unless the proof that it was obtained by fraud is clear and certain, indeed overwhelming. The result has been here that a solemn judgment has been set aside on findings based not on an understanding and appreciation of the meaning of the full stream of the citizen's life, as the record declares it, but on isolated statements, oral and written. Under this rule these isolated statements, made in part under stress of feeling, in part in banter, in part as mere dialectic, though trifles light as air, are made to seem confirmations strong as proofs from Holy Writ because they express historical, philosophical or political views of which those about him and those in authority are intolerant. the jurisdictional prerequisites to the grant-

The statutes clearly and fully lay down ing of citizenship. In support of the petition to cancel, not a word or line of evidence was offered as to any jurisdictional deficiency or defect in the proceedings leading up to the grant of the certificate. Not a line or word was offered as to things said and done in the five years' probationary period prior to its granting, from which it might be inferred that the citizenship was not sought and assumed in the utmost good faith and sincerity.7 The Government's reliance, and that of the district judge, was entirely upon the relation back, as an interpreter of intention, of words, written and spoken, and acts done, beginning some five years after the granting of the certificate, every one of which words and acts taken singly and together were within the legitimate, indeed the constitutional and statutory, rights of citizens, naturalized and native born. Unless, therefore, Meyer, because a naturalized citizen of German descent had a more restricted right of free thought and speech, and of political, philosophical and historical discussion than other citizens had, there is no possible basis for the view that, in talking and acting as he did, he transcended his rights as an American citizen, furnished any basis for a finding that his certificate had been procured by fraud, or subjected himself to any consequences except the loss of the good opinion of those who, differing strongly with him, had neither liking nor tolerance for his views or for him.

Appellant, pointing this out and insisting that some of the facts found as to what Meyer did and said have not been truly found and that the findings as a whole do not fairly reflect the record, urges upon us that if all are taken as well found, they do not furnish any basis for the ultimate finding that Meyer, with fraud in his heart and on his lips, took the oath of allegiance, and that the solemn judgment of the court, which admitted him as qualified, should be set aside. We agree with appellant. Taken at best for the government, there was a showing merely that some of the views attributed to Meyer with regard to the war and Germany's part in it showed that questions of right as between England and Germany and Germany and other European countries had been resolved by Meyer in Germany's favor, and that his sympathies as between England and Germany were with Germany. Taking his views, as shown by the record as a whole rather than by isolated expressions attributed to him by persons holding views violently opposed to the ones they attribute to him, there is not a thing that Meyer said that was not lawfully said thousands of times during the same period by citizens both naturalized and native born. Taking them most strongly against him, there is not a thing that would support the conclusion that his citizenship was obtained by fraud.

In support of his ultimate conclusion, the district judge set down that the record showed: (1) that Meyer spoke disparagingly of the American people as contrasted with the German people;8 (2) that Meyer thought Germany would win the war; (3) that he thought that in any war there

141 F.2d 828
was no moral question involved; that history showed that only success had ever counted where war was concerned; (4) that he was pleased over the victories of Germany over Poland, the Netherlands and France;9 (5) that he was frequently disgusted with America and thought the American people stupid; that he believed American patriotism to be narrow nationalism, and on one occasion said that he could never be a real American;10 (6) that he associated on friendly terms with Germans, some holding official places here under the German Government, who were later either interned or required to leave; (7) that he once said it would be a good thing to have a mild form of Fascism in America;11 (8) that in September, 1939, he wrote an article which said in effect that America was to blame for this war because it had gotten mixed up in the last one, and thereby prevented Germany's winning it; (9) that he thought that Germany would win, and he thought a German victory would be a blessing to the world; (10) that he many times used the words, "our country", and "my country", meaning Germany, and "your country", meaning the United States;12 (11) that he became an American citizen only because it was convenient and because he could say anything he wanted to, and that he would remain in this country only as long as it was to his material advantage;13 and (12) then finally he found as an evidence of falsity, concealment and lack of good faith in 1935, the open, courageous and honest act of Meyer in 1940, in applying for a passport in order to effect his expatriation. Nothing came of this act, and Meyer abandoned his purpose, a purpose taken because of his feeling at that time, (a feeling which he admitted that he found out later, when his associates rallied to him, was a mistake) that he had no...

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  • United States v. Title, Civ. No. 17368.
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    • 8 Junio 1955
    ...44 Baumgartner v. United States, 1944, 322 U.S. 665, 674, 64 S.Ct. 1240, 1245, 88 L.Ed. 1525. 45 Meyer v. United States, 5 Cir., 1944, 141 F.2d 825, 46 Luria v. United States, 1913, 231 U.S. 9, 23, 34 S.Ct. 10, 13, 58 L.Ed. 101. 47 Luria v. United States, supra, 231 U.S. at page 24, 34 S.Ct......
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    ...considered nor tampered with, in the absence of sound reason for so doing. As Judge Hutcheson said in Meyer v. United States, 5 Cir., 141 F.2d 825, 831: "It ought to be, it is, in the absence of downright proof of fraud or illegality, enough that one district judge has judicially 142 F.2d 9......
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