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Law School Case Brief

Costello v. United States - 365 U.S. 265, 81 S. Ct. 534 (1961)


The Government carries a heavy burden of proof in a proceeding to divest a naturalized citizen of his citizenship. American citizenship is a precious right. Severe consequences may attend its loss, aggravated when the person has enjoyed his citizenship for many years.


Petitioner filed an application for naturalization, and upon the form, he listed his occupation was real estate, when in actuality, petitioner's occupation was bootlegger. Twenty-seven years later, respondent government attempted to strip petitioner of his citizenship on the grounds that petitioner failed to accurately list his occupation, and thus lacked good moral character. The appellate court upheld his loss of citizenship. Petitioner sought review.


Does the failure of the petitioner to accurately state his profession on his application for naturalization justify respondent’s act of stripping his American citizenship?




The United States Supreme Court held that the evidence showed that petitioner willfully misrepresented his occupation and thus lacked good moral character as required for naturalization. The Court also held that petitioner's rights were not violated by respondent waiting 27 years to initiate loss of citizenship since petitioner was not prejudiced.

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