Reds’ citizenship upheld by Supreme Court (6-21-43)

The Free Lance-Star (June 21, 1943)

Reds’ citizenship upheld by Supreme Court

‘Overt act’ necessary to annual rights of citizenship; victory for Willkie


Washington (AP) –
In a 5–3 opinion, the Supreme Court ruled today that the American citizenship of an alien cannot constitutionally be cancelled merely because he was a member of the Communist Party.

Justice Murphy, who delivered the majority opinion, asserted that cancellation of citizenship was not justified by imputing a “reprehensible interpretation” of an organization to a member unless there were “overt acts” committed by a member “indicating that such was his interpretation.”

Chief Justice Stone and Justices Roberts and Frankfurter dissented. Justice Jackson, a former Attorney General who handled the litigation in the Justice Department, did not participate.

The long-awaited decision constituted a victory for Wendell L. Willkie, the 1940 Republican presidential nominee, who represented the communist involved before the Supreme Court.

Murphy declared that “clear, unequivocal, and convincing” evidence was required for setting aside a naturalization decree and that such evidence had not been presented against William Schneiderman, state secretary of the Communist Party for California and a native of Russia, who became a citizen in 1927.

Murphy said:

Were the law otherwise, valuable rights would rest upon a slender reed, and the security of the status of our naturalized citizens might depend in considerable degree upon the political temper of majority thought and the stresses of the times. Those are consequences foreign to the best traditions of this nation, and the characteristics of our institutions.

Schneiderman came to this country in 1908 at the age of three, became an American citizen in 1927, and his citizenship was ordered cancelled in 1940 by the federal district court in San Francisco on the ground that he had concealed his communist connections.

Solicitor General Charles Fahy, the government’s spokesman, said the Naturalization Act required that an alien who obtained citizenship be “attached to the principles of the Constitution” and be “well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.”

He added that the evidence established that in 1927, the Communist Party and Schneiderman “believed in, advocated, and taught the overthrow of this government by force and violence.”

Willkie said Schneiderman had given “unimpeached testimony” that he had never believed in or advocated the use of force or violence or disbelieved in organized government. He added that government attorneys admitted that the constitution of the Communist Party USA, adopted in 1938, did not advocate force or violence.

The federal district court in San Francisco held that Schneiderman had obtained citizenship illegally because he failed to reveal that during a five-year probationary period, he belonged to an organization advocating violent overthrow of the U.S. government.