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Law School Case Brief

Schneiderman v. United States - 320 U.S. 118, 63 S. Ct. 1333 (1943)

Rule:

Whatever may be the rule in a naturalization proceeding, in an action instituted under the Act of June 29, 1906 § 15, 8 U.S.C.S. 405, for the purpose of depriving one of the precious right of citizenship previously conferred the facts and the law should be construed as far as is reasonably possible in favor of the citizen. Especially is this so when the attack is made long after the time when the certificate of citizenship was granted and the citizen has meanwhile met his obligations and has committed no act of lawlessness. The burden of proof is on the government in such a case. This burden must be met with evidence of a clear and convincing character that when citizenship was conferred it was not done in accordance with strict legal requirements. 

Facts:

Petitioner Schneiderman came to this country from Russia in 1907 or 1908 when he was approximately three. In 1922, at the age of 16, he became a charter member of the Young Workers (now Communist) League in Los Angeles and remained a member until 1929 or 1930. In 1924, at the age of 18, he filed his declaration of intention to become a citizen. Later in the same year or early in 1925 he became a member of the  Workers Party, the predecessor of the Communist Party of the United States. That membership has continued to the present. Schneiderman's petition for naturalization was granted on June 10, 1927, by the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. He had not been arrested or subjected to censure prior to 1927, and there is nothing in the record indicating that he was ever connected with any overt illegal or violent action or with any disturbance of any sort. Twelve years later, the United States filed a petition to cancel Schneiderman's certificate of citizenship on the ground that his certificate was illegally procured because he was an admitted member of the Communist Party of the United States at the time of and during the five years preceding his naturalization. The certificate of citizenship was indeed cancelled and on appeal, the cancellation was affirmed by the court of appeals. The petitioner sought further review by the United States Supreme Court.

Issue:

Can the court set aside the naturalization of an admitted member of the Communist Party of the United States twelve years after the certificate of citizenship was granted?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court reversed the cancellation of petitioner's certificate of citizenship because the government failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that petitioner had not behaved as a person attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution through his membership in the Communist party. Although petitioner had exercised his freedom of thought by participating in the Communist Party of America and by desiring change to the Constitution, such evidence did not show petitioner's failure to manifest attachment to the Constitution. Even if the principles of the organization to which petitioner belonged were fundamentally opposed to those of the Constitution, they could not be imputed to petitioner on the basis of his mere membership where petitioner had not subscribed unqualifiedly to all of the party's platforms and had never advocated violent overthrow of the government.

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