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NOWAK v. UNITED STATES

decided: May 26, 1958.

NOWAK
v.
UNITED STATES



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Burton, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker

Author: Harlan

[ 356 U.S. Page 661]

 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1913, at the age of 10 years, petitioner was brought to the United States as an immigrant from Poland. In June 1938 the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan entered its order admitting him to citizenship. More than 14 years later, in December 1952, the United States brought this suit under § 338 (a) of the Nationality Act of 1940*fn1 to set aside the naturalization decree, alleging that Nowak had obtained his citizenship both fraudulently and illegally. The Government filed with its complaint an "affidavit showing good cause," as required by § 338 (a). After a trial the District Court granted the relief requested by the United States on the grounds that Nowak (1) fraudulently obtained citizenship by making a false answer to a question in his Preliminary Form for Petition for Naturalization, filed in July 1937; and (2) illegally obtained citizenship, in that for a period of five years preceding his

[ 356 U.S. Page 662]

     naturalization he had not been "attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States . . . ," as required by § 4 of the Nationality Act of 1906,*fn2 under which he was naturalized. 133 F.Supp. 191. The Court of Appeals affirmed, 238 F.2d 282, and we granted certiorari. 353 U.S. 922. For reasons given hereafter we decide that the judgment below must be reversed.

1. " Good Cause" Affidavit. -- Petitioner, relying on United States v. Zucca, 351 U.S. 91, contends that the District Court lacked jurisdiction over this proceeding because the Government's affidavit of "good cause" was defective, in that it was not made by one having personal knowledge of the matters contained therein. This contention must be rejected. The affiant was an attorney of the Immigration and Naturalization Service who swore that the allegations made in his affidavit were based upon facts disclosed by official records of the Naturalization Service to which he had had access. In substance the affidavit set forth the same matters upon which the District Court's later decree of denaturalization was based, and showed with adequate particularity the grounds on which the Government's suit rested. Sworn to as it was by a responsible official of the Naturalization Service, we consider that the affidavit satisfied the purpose of § 338 (a) to protect those proceeded against from ill-considered action. See United States v. Zucca, supra, at 99-100.

[ 356 U.S. Page 6632]

     . Fraudulent Procurement. -- The finding of fraud here was based on Nowak's answer to Question 28 in the above-mentioned preliminary naturalization form, which read:

"28. Are you a believer in anarchy? . . . Do you belong to or are you associated with any organization which teaches or advocates anarchy or the overthrow of existing government in this country? . . ."

Nowak placed "No" after each part of the question. The courts below ruled that he should have answered "Yes" to the second part because in 1937, when the form was executed, (1) Nowak was a member of the Communist Party; (2) the Party taught "the overthrow of existing government"; and (3) Nowak was aware of this Party teaching. Accordingly the charge of fraudulent procurement was sustained.

Where citizenship is at stake the Government carries the heavy burden of proving its case by "'clear, unequivocal, and convincing' evidence which does not leave 'the issue in doubt' . . . ." Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U.S. 118, 158. "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." Id., at 122-123. See also Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S. 665, 675. And in a case such as this it becomes our duty to scrutinize the record with the utmost care. Cf. Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 516; Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298, 328.

Applying the strict standard required of the Government by Schneiderman, we rule that the charge of fraud was not proved: first, Question 28 on its face was not sufficiently clear to warrant the firm conclusion that ...


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