United States v. Karahalias

Decision Date02 June 1953
Docket NumberDocket 22632.,No. 218,218
Citation205 F.2d 331
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

Frank W. Jackson, New York City, for appellant.

William J. Sexton, J. Edward Lumbard, Jr., U. S. Atty., S. D. New York, Louis Steinberg, Dist. Counsel, United States Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, New York City, for appellee.

Before L. HAND, AUGUSTUS N. HAND and FRANK, Circuit Judges.

L. HAND, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from an order of the District Court, denying the motion of a naturalized citizen to reopen a judgment, entered against him by default in an action to cancel his certificate of naturalization. It was heard upon affidavits, and the judge denied it because the defendant's "inaction" for a period of almost seventeen years "indicates the lack of any reason justifying relief from the operation of the decree." The facts, as they appear in the affidavits, are as follows. The defendant in the action, Karahalias, was born in Greece, first came to the United States in 1910, when he was sixteen years old, and lived here continuously until 1925, when he filed a declaration of his intention to become a citizen. In June of that year he was granted a permit to return to Greece, where he married a Greek citizen, but came back to the United States without her in 1926 and was naturalized on November 15, 1927. In June, 1929, he got a passport, on which he again went to Greece in order to bring his wife to this country and to settle his father's estate; but he stayed on in Greece until January, 1947, an uninterrupted period, therefore, of more than seventeen years. His excuse for this long delay and his reasoning that it did not establish his residence in Greece are as follows. In May, 1931, his permissible period of absence being about to expire, he procured from our Embassy in Athens an extension of six months, and thereafter further extensions "until about 1935." The reason that he gave and that the Embassy accepted, was that his wife was so ill that any attempt to bring her to this country would endanger her life; and her condition continued to be as grave until September, 1939. He "had requested on several occasions theretofore from the American Embassy at Athens to allow me to return home alone, but I was strongly informed that I could not return as such citizen alone unless accompanied by my wife and children." When the war broke out in September, 1939, it became impossible for him to come back until early in 1947, when he left his wife and two of his four children in Greece, and was allowed to enter with the other two. Meanwhile, on May 17, 1934, an action had been brought to cancel his certificate of naturalization, service of which was made by publication, and of which he received notice, as appears from a registry receipt signed by him on file among the papers in the action. On this proof of service judgment was entered herein on March 15, 1935, cancelling his certificate. In his affidavit he says he did not learn of the entry of the judgment until his return in 1947, but he does not deny that he received copies of the petition and summons.

The Supreme Court definitely decided in Klapprott v. United States, 335 U. S. 601, 69 S.Ct. 384, 93 L.Ed. 266, that a judgment by default was valid in a denaturalization action, and it recognized the doctrine in Ackermann v. United States, 340 U.S. 193, 71 S.Ct. 209, 95 L.Ed. 207, although in that case the default had been in taking an appeal, for the defendant had contested the action in the District Court. In United States v. Eichenlaub, 2 Cir., 180 F.2d 314, we read Klapprott v. United States, supra, as so holding, although we were deciding whether to open a consent judgment. The Third Circuit too has so understood it.1 However, two questions arose in Klapprott v. United States, supra: (1) Whether a decree should be entered, dismissing the action to cancel the certificate; or (2) whether on the record before the Court, only the order denying the motion to vacate the decree cancelling the certificate should be reversed, and the cause remanded for a hearing upon the issues raised by the petition to vacate that decree. Upon a rehearing, 336 U.S. 942, 69 S.Ct. 398, 93.L.Ed. 1099, the United States succeeded in limiting the mandate to the second form so that when it went down, it directed the District Court "to receive evidence on the truth or falsity of the allegations contained in petitioner's petition to vacate the default judgment entered in the denaturalization proceedings." It follows that upon this appeal we are only to decide whether the allegations of Karahalias would, if proved at a hearing, require the vacation of the decree of cancellation, thereby opening for trial the action for denaturalization.

This depends upon whether the petition to reopen the judgment is permissible under Rule 60(b), Fed.Rules Civ.Proc. 28 U.S.C.A. Confessedly Karahalias may not invoke subsections (1), (2) or (3) of that rule, because of the limitation upon them of six months; nor may he invoke subsections (4) or (5), because the judgment is not within them. If he is to succeeed, therefore, he must bring himself within subsection (6); and literally, he may not do so, because there can be no doubt that his ground of relief is "excusable neglect"; and unless subsection (6) be read as providing an exception to subsection (1), the order on appeal was right. It seems to us that subsection (6) must be so read, not only as to subsection (1) but as to (2) and (3). It is extremely difficult to imagine any equitable grounds for relief that these three subsections do not cover, for subsections (4) and (5) are not really for equitable relief at all. Subsection (6) on the other hand is itself clearly for equitable relief, and, if confined to situations not covered by the first three subsections, would be extremely meagre, even assuming that we could find any scope for it at all. Moreover, if we could, it would be a strange purpose to ascribe to the Rule to say that, although subsection (6) was no more than a kind of receptacle for vestigial equities, it should be without any limit in time, while the other and the usual equitable grounds for relief were narrowly limited. We do not believe that this was its purpose; we think that it was meant to provide for situations of extreme hardship, not only those, if there be any, that subsections (1), (2) and (3) do not cover, but those that they do. In short — to put it quite baldly — we read the subsection as giving the court a discretionary dispensing power over the limitation imposed by the Rule itself on subsections (1), (2) and (3); and such seems to have been also the opinion of the Third Circuit in United States v. Backofen, supra, 176 F.2d 263.

Coming then to the facts at bar, the question is whether Karahalias was justified in doing nothing, after learning late in the year 1934, that an action had been begun to cancel his certificate. In deciding this we are to assume that he had been told by those to whom he had been referred in our Embassy at Athens, that he would not be allowed to come back at all, unless he took his wife with him, and that until September, 1939, it continued impossible for him to take her except at the risk of her life. We understand that the United States does not deny that it was impossible for him to come back after September, 1939, before he did so in fact; or at least that his further delay is not to be taken against him. If it does not so concede, we so decide; and so the appeal comes down to whether Karahalias's inaction for nearly five years between the end of 1934, and September, 1939, excused him under subsection (6) of Rule 60(b). We think that it did, when we consider the importance of his interest in retaining his citizenship. The most that he could possibly have done in his predicament was to retain an attorney to put in an answer in the action. That would indeed have delayed the entry of the judgment, but without more...

To continue reading

Request your trial
53 cases
  • In re Krautheimer
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Southern District of New York
    • June 18, 1997
    ...v. Cirami, 563 F.2d 26, 32 (2d Cir. 1977), or where the judgment may work an extreme and undue hardship, see United States v. Karahalias, 205 F.2d 331, 333 (2d Cir.1953). 666 F.2d at 759. See Cahill v. Arthur Andersen & Co., 659 F.Supp. 1115, 1129 (S.D.N.Y.1986), aff'd 822 F.2d 14 (2d Cir. ......
  • United States v. Gayle
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
    • January 29, 2014
    ...86, 89 (N.D.N.Y.2001). Furthermore, a default judgment is valid and permissible in denaturalization actions. See United States v. Karahalias, 205 F.2d 331, 332 (2d Cir.1953) (“The Supreme Court definitely decided in Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601, 69 S.Ct. 384, 93 L.Ed. 266 (1949)......
  • Matarese v. LeFevre
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • September 12, 1986
    ...v. Cirami, 563 F.2d [26, 32 (2d Cir.1977) ]; or where the judgment may work an extreme and undue hardship, see United States v. Karahalias, 205 F.2d 331, 333 (2d Cir.1953)," In re Emergency Beacon Corp., 666 F.2d 754, 759 (2d Cir.1981), and "should be liberally construed when substantial ju......
  • U.S. v. Baus
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • October 6, 1987
    ...allegations, if proved, would justify relief." United States v. Cirami, 563 F.2d 26, 28 (2d Cir.1977); see also United States v. Karahalias, 205 F.2d 331, 333 (2d Cir.1953). A. The district court's decision was based solely on the ground that the guarantors waited too long after the foreclo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT