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Oyama v. California

Supreme Court of the United States

October 22, 1947, Argued ; January 19, 1948, Decided

No. 44

Opinion

 [****4]  [*635]  [**270]  [***253]     MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners challenge the constitutionality of California's Alien Land Law 1 as it has been applied in this case to effect an escheat of two small parcels of agricultural land. 2 One of the petitioners is Fred Oyama, a minor American citizen in whose name title was taken. The other is his father and guardian, Kajiro Oyama, a Japanese citizen not eligible for naturalization, 3 who paid the purchase price.

 [****5]  Petitioners press three attacks on the Alien Land Law as it has been applied in this case: first, that it deprives Fred Oyama of the equal protection of the laws and of his privileges as an American citizen; secondly, that it denies Kajiro Oyama equal protection of the laws; and, thirdly, that it contravenes the due process clause by sanctioning a taking of property after expiration  [***254]  of the  [*636]  applicable limitations period.  Proper foundation for these claims has been laid in the proceedings below.

] In approaching cases, such as this one, in which federal constitutional rights are asserted, it is incumbent on us to inquire not merely whether those rights have been denied in express terms, but also whether they have been denied in substance and effect. We must review independently both the legal issues and those factual matters with which they are commingled. 4

 [****6]  ] In broad outline, the Alien Land Law forbids aliens ineligible for American citizenship to acquire, own, occupy, lease, or transfer agricultural land. 5 It also provides that any property acquired in violation of the statute shall escheat as of the date of acquisition 6 and that the same result shall follow any transfer made with "intent to prevent, evade or avoid" escheat. 7 In addition, that intent is presumed, prima facie, whenever  [**271]  an ineligible alien pays the consideration for a transfer to a citizen or eligible alien. 8

The first of the two parcels in question, consisting of six acres of agricultural land in southern California, was purchased in 1934, when Fred Oyama was six years old. Kajiro Oyama paid the $ 4,000 consideration, and the seller executed a deed to Fred. The deed was duly recorded.

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332 U.S. 633 *; 68 S. Ct. 269 **; 92 L. Ed. 249 ***; 1948 U.S. LEXIS 2773 ****

OYAMA ET AL. v. CALIFORNIA

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA.

The Supreme Court of California affirmed a decision of a state trial court declaring escheated to the State under the California Alien Land Law, 1 Cal. Gen. Laws, Act 261, as amended, certain agricultural lands recorded in the name of a minor American citizen, which lands had been paid for by his father, a Japanese citizen ineligible for naturalization. 29 Cal. 2d 164, 173 P. 2d 794. This Court granted certiorari. 330 U.S. 818. Reversed, p. 647.

Disposition:  29 Cal. 2d 164, 173 P. 2d 794, reversed.

CORE TERMS

aliens, ineligible, agricultural, farm, ownership, escheat, gift, citizenship, eligible, evade, immigration, anti-Japanese, conveyance, grantee, infant, classification, occupy, deed, stranger, racism, acres, lease, ancestry, acreage, evasion, parcels, facie, undesirability, guardianship, cultivation

Immigration Law, Duties & Rights of Noncitizens, General Overview, Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, Eminent Domain Proceedings, Appellate Review, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, US Supreme Court Review, Contracts Law, Types of Contracts, Lease Agreements, Property Ownership, Real Property Law, Ownership & Transfer, Death & Incapacity, Escheat, Constitutional Law, Substantive Due Process, Scope, Estate, Gift & Trust Law, Gifts, Personal Gifts, Family Law, Guardians, Appointment, Estate Administration, Conservators & Guardians, Equal Protection, Nature & Scope of Protection, Parentage, Trusts, Resulting Trusts, Deeds, National Origin & Race, Constitutional Foundations, Equal Protection