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Law School Case Brief

TROP v. DULLES - 356 U.S. 86, 78 S. Ct. 590 (1958)

Rule:

Citizenship is not subject to the general powers of the national government and therefore cannot be divested in the exercise of those powers. The right may be voluntarily relinquished or abandoned either by express language or by language and conduct that show a renunciation of citizenship.

Facts:

Plaintiff's application for a passport was denied on the ground that under 401(g) of the Nationality Act of 1940, as amended, he had lost his citizenship by reason of his court-martial conviction and dishonorable discharge for wartime desertion. Subsequently, plaintiff commenced the present action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, seeking a declaratory judgment that he was a citizen. The government's motion for summary judgment was granted and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff appealed.

Issue:

Did the forfeiture of petitioner’s citizenship comport with the United States Constitution?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court held that the forfeiture of plaintiff’s citizenship did not comport with the United States Constitution. The Court determined that citizenship was not subject to the general powers of the national government and therefore could not be divested in the exercise of those powers. According to the Court, plaintiff did not dilute his allegiance to the United States. The fact that the desertion occurred on foreign soil was of no consequence. The Court held that citizenship was not a license that expired upon misbehavior. Citizenship was not lost every time a duty of citizenship was shirked. The deprivation of citizenship was not a weapon that the government could use to express its displeasure at a citizen's conduct, however reprehensible that conduct may be.

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