United States v. Minker Falcone v. Barnes, Nos. 35

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtFRANKFURTER
Citation76 S.Ct. 281,350 U.S. 179,100 L.Ed. 185
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Petitioner, v. Abraham MINKER. Salvatore FALCONE and Joseph Falcone, Petitioners, v. Harold E. BARNES, Officer in Charge of Immigration and Naturalization Service
Decision Date16 January 1956
Docket NumberNos. 35,47

350 U.S. 179
76 S.Ct. 281
100 L.Ed. 185
UNITED STATES of America, Petitioner,

v.

Abraham MINKER. Salvatore FALCONE and Joseph Falcone, Petitioners, v. Harold E. BARNES, Officer in Charge of Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Nos. 35, 47.
Argued Nov. 14, 15, 1955.
Decided Jan. 16, 1956.

No. 35:

Mr. Marvin E. Frankel, Washington, D.C., for the United States.

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Mr. Jacob Kossman, Philadelphia, Pa., for respondent Minker.

No. 47:

Mr. George Morris Fay, Washington, D.C., for Falcone.

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Because of conflicting constructions by the Courts of Appeals for the Second and Third Circuits of § 235(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, 66 Stat. 163, 198, 8 U.S.C.A. §§ 1101 et seq., 1225(a), we brought these cases here. 349 U.S. 904, 75 S.Ct. 582; 349 U.S. 927, 75 S.Ct. 774. They were heard in sequence, and, since minor differences in their facts are irrelevant to the problems now before us, they may be disposed of in one opinion.

Section 235(a)1 provides that any immigration officer 'shall have power to require by subpena the attendance

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and testimony of witnesses before immigration officers * * * relating to the privilege of any person to enter, reenter, reside in, or pass through the United States or concerning any matter which is material and relevant to the enforcement of this Act and the administration of the Service, and to that end may invoke the aid of any court of the United States.' The controlling issue presented by these cases is whether this section empowers an immigration officer to subpoena a naturalized citizen who is the subject of an investigation by the Service, where the purpose of the investigation is to determine if good cause exists for the institution of denaturalization proceedings under § 340(a) of the Act.2

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In No. 35, the District Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at Philadelphia, in accordance with § 340.11 of the Service's regulation,3 instituted an investigation of respondent for the aforementioned purpose. In furtherance of this inquiry into the legality of

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Minker's naturalization the Director subpoenaed him to give testimony at the offices of the Service. Prior to the required date of his appearance, he moved to quash the subpoena in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania upon the ground, inter alia, that it was unauthorized by the Act. This motion was denied, In re Minker, D.C., 118 F.Supp. 264, and no appeal was taken. When respondent thereafter failed to obey the subpoena, the District Court, on application of the District Director, ordered respondent to appear before the Service and testify. He disregarded this order. After a hearing he was adjudged in contempt for so doing and fined $500. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed, holding that while the power to subpoena under § 235(a) was available for investigations directed toward denaturalization proceedings, respondent as a putative defendant in such a proceeding was not a 'witness' within the meaning of the section, and the Service was, therefore, without power to subpoena him.4 217 F.2d 350.

In No. 47, each petitioner was served with a subpoena issued by the officer in charge of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at Syracuse, New York. The subpoenas commanded petitioners' appearance and testimony, and required them to produce specified documents. They appeared with documents as ordered, but refused to be sworn or to testify. Thereupon an application for an order of compliance was made by the Service in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York; but the court, denying the Service's authority, refused to compel petitioners to appear and give testimony. Application of Barnes, D.C., 116 F.Supp. 464. On appeal, to the Court of

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Appeals for the Second Circuit, this judgment was reversed. 219 F.2d 137. The court held that § 235(a) of the Act permitted the immigration officer to subpoena the petitioners in furtherance of the Service's investigation of them under § 340.11 of the regulations. The decision assumed, although the court did not discuss the question, that each petitioner, even though a subject of investigation, was a 'witness' within the meaning of § 235(a).5

This brings us to an examination of the scope of § 235(a). It had its genesis in § 16 of the Immigration Act of 1917, 39 Stat. 874, 885, which dealt with the examination of entering aliens by the Immigration Service. With respect to subpoenas the section provided: 'Any commissioner of immigration or inspector in charge shall also have power to require by subpoena the attendance and testimony of witnesses before said inspectors and the production of books, papers, and documents touching the right of any alien to enter, reenter, reside in, or pass through the United States, and to that end may invoke the aid of any court of the United States * * *.' Obviously, this provision strictly defined the purposes for which officers of the Service could subpoena witnesses. It did not give them power to issue subpoenas as aids in investigating potential naturalization offenses.

The 1952 Act in § 235(a) retained the substance of this language in § 16. But the word 'alien' was changed to 'person,' and additional language extended the subpoena power to 'any matter which is material and relevant to the enforcement of this Act and the administration of the Service.' If the additional clause, following the portion 'relating to the privilege of any person to enter, reenter, reside in, or pass through the United States', had merely read 'and any other matter which is material and

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relevant,' the doctrine of ejusdem generis would appropriately be invoked to limit the subpoena power to an investigation pertaining to questions of admission and deportation. The comprehensive addition of the clause 'or concerning any matter which is material and relevant to the enforcement of this Act and the administration of the Service', precludes such narrowing reading. 'Act' encompasses the full range of subjects covered by the statute. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 brought together in one statute the previously atomized subjects of immigration, nationality and naturalization. The unqualified use of the word 'Act' in § 235(a), if read as ordinary English, embraces all of these subjects even though § 235(a) is itself in the immigration title of the statute. But 'the title of a statute and the heading of a section cannot limit the plain meaning * * *.' Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 331 U.S. 519, 528 529, 67 S.Ct. 1387, 1391—1392, 91 L.Ed. 1646. Throughout this statute the word 'Act' is given its full significance. The word embraces the entire statute.6 On the other hand, when

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only a particular title is referred to, it is designated as such, and when the reference is to a section, that word is employed.7 No justification appears for treating 'Act' in § 235(a) as meaning 'section.' Thus far the Second and Third Circuits are in agreement.

We come then to the question upon which the two Courts of Appeals part ways in their construction of § 235(a), namely, whether Salvatore and Joseph Falcone in the one case and Abraham Minker in the other, although each the subject of a denaturalization investigation under § 340.11 of the regulations, were 'witnesses' within the meaning of the power given to 'any immigration officer' to require 'by subpoena the attendance and testimony of witnesses' before immigration officers.

If the answer to the question merely depended upon whether, as a matter of allowable English usage, the word 'witness' may fairly describe a person in the position of Minker and the Falcones, it could not be denied that the word could as readily be deemed to cover persons in their position as not. In short, the word is patently ambiguous: it can fairly be applied to anyone who gives testimony in a proceeding, although the proceeding immediately or potentially involves him as a party, or it may be restricted to the person who gives testimony in another's case.

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It is pertinent to note the breadth of § 235(a) not only with respect to the type of investigation in which a subpoena may be issued ('any matter which is material and relevant to the enforcement of this Act'), but also with respect to the member of the Service empowered to issue it. The power is granted 'any immigration officer,' who in turn is defined in § 101(a)(18) of the Act as 'any employee or class of employees of the Service or of the United States designated by the Attorney General, individually or by regulation, to perform the functions of an immigration officer specified by this Act or any section thereof.' This extensive delegated authority reinforces the considerations inherent in the nature of the power sought to be exercised that make for a restrictive reading of the Janus-faced word 'witness.' The subpoena power 'is a power capable of oppressive use, especially when it may be indiscriminately delegated and the subpoena is not returnable before a judicial officer. * * * True, there can be no penalty incurred for contempt before there is a judicial order of enforcement. But the subpoena is in form an official command, and even though improvidently issued it has some coercive tendency, either because of ignorance of their rights on the part of those whom it purports to command or their natural respect for what appears to be an official command, or because of their reluctance to test the subpoena's validity by litigation.' Cudahy Packing Co., Ltd. v. Holland, 315 U.S. 357, 363—364, 62 S.Ct. 651, 654—655, 86 L.Ed. 895.

These concerns, relevant to the construction of this ambiguously worded power, are emphatically pertinent to investigations that constitute the first step in proceedings...

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63 practice notes
  • Ex parte Alabama Oxygen Co., Inc., BORG-WARNER
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 13 May 1983
    ...legislative trend, presumably manifesting a strong social policy, properly makes demands on the judicial process." 350 U.S. at 211, 76 S.Ct. at 281. I am of the opinion that the Supreme Court in Moses H. Cone Mem. Hospital was clearly aware of the development of the law concerning state cou......
  • United States v. Arroyo, EP-18-CR-02049-DCG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 21 December 2018
    ...626administration and enforcement of the INA. See INA, § 103(a), 66 Stat. 173 –74, 8 U.S.C. 1103(a) (1952) ; United States v. Minker , 350 U.S. 179, 192, 76 S.Ct. 281, 100 L.Ed. 185 (1956). The Attorney General, in turn, delegated his statutory rulemaking, enforcement, and adjudicative powe......
  • Xia v. Tillerson, No. 16-5010
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • 1 August 2017
    ...Denaturalization "may result in the loss of both property and life; or of all that makes life worth living." United States v. Minker , 350 U.S. 179, 187, 76 S.Ct. 281, 100 L.Ed. 185 (1956). Reflecting the gravity of that step, revocation or cancellation of citizenship may only be accomplish......
  • Briehl v. Dulles, No. 13317.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • 27 June 1957
    ...statutes as conferring upon the Secretary by implication broad powers which they do not explicitly confer, United States v. Minker, 1956, 350 U.S. 179, 190, 76 S.Ct. 281, 100 L.Ed. 185, especially when serious restraints on liberty are entailed. Ex parte Endo, 1944, 323 U.S. 283, 299-300, 6......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
62 cases
  • Ex parte Alabama Oxygen Co., Inc., BORG-WARNER
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 13 May 1983
    ...legislative trend, presumably manifesting a strong social policy, properly makes demands on the judicial process." 350 U.S. at 211, 76 S.Ct. at 281. I am of the opinion that the Supreme Court in Moses H. Cone Mem. Hospital was clearly aware of the development of the law concerning state cou......
  • United States v. Arroyo, EP-18-CR-02049-DCG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 21 December 2018
    ...626administration and enforcement of the INA. See INA, § 103(a), 66 Stat. 173 –74, 8 U.S.C. 1103(a) (1952) ; United States v. Minker , 350 U.S. 179, 192, 76 S.Ct. 281, 100 L.Ed. 185 (1956). The Attorney General, in turn, delegated his statutory rulemaking, enforcement, and adjudicative powe......
  • Gorbach v. Reno, No. 98-35723.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 4 June 1999
    ...the proceeding is nonjudicial because of `the difference in security of judicial over administrative action.'" United States v. Minker, 350 U.S. 179, 188, 76 S.Ct. 281, 100 L.Ed. 185 (1956) (quoting Ng Fung Ho v. White, 259 U.S. 276, 285, 42 S.Ct. 492, 66 L.Ed. 938 (1922)). We assume there ......
  • Chacoty v. Pompeo, Civil Action No. 14-764 (RDM)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • 17 July 2019
    ...and its revocation "may result in ‘loss of both property and life; or of all that makes life worth living,’ " United States v. Minker , 350 U.S. 179, 187, 76 S.Ct. 281, 100 L.Ed. 185 (1956) (quoting Ng Fung Ho v. White , 259 U.S. 276, 284, 42 S.Ct. 492, 66 L.Ed. 938 (1922) ). But that is no......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Warren Court - After Three Terms
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 9-4, December 1956
    • 1 December 1956
    ...theattorney-general’s regulation permitting the use of confidential information 45 The unanimous decision was in United States v. Minker, 350 U.S. 179 (1956). Court was divided in United States v. Zucca, 351 U.S. 91 (1956), and in Jay v. Boyd,no. 503, U.S. Sup. Ct., June 11, 1956. 46 No. 50......

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