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TROP V. DULLES, 356 U. S. 86 (1958)

U.S. Supreme Court

Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86 (1958)

Trop v. Dulles

No. 70

Argued May 2, 1957

Restored to the calendar for reargument June 24, 1957

Reargued October 28-29, 1957

Decided March 31, 1958

356 U.S. 86


At least as applied in this case to a native-born citizen of the United States who did not voluntarily relinquish or abandon his citizenship or become involved in any way with a foreign nation, § 401(g) of the Nationality Act of 1940, as amended, which provides that a citizen "shall lose his nationality" by

"deserting the military or naval forces of the United States in time of war, provided he is convicted thereof by court martial and as a result of such conviction is dismissed or dishonorably discharged from the service,"

is unconstitutional. Pp. 356 U. S. 87-114.

239 F.2d 527, reversed.


1. Citizenship is not subject to the general powers of the National Government, and therefore cannot be divested in the exercise of those powers. Pp. 356 U. S. 91-93.

2. Even if citizenship could be divested in the exercise of some governmental power, § 401(g) violates the Eighth Amendment, because it is penal in nature and prescribes a "cruel and unusual" punishment. Pp. 356 U. S. 93-104.

MR. JUSTICE BLACK, in an opinion joined by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, concurred in the opinion of THE CHIEF JUSTICE and expressed the view that, even if citizenship could be involuntarily divested, the power to denationalize may not be placed in the hands of military authorities. Pp. 356 U. S. 104-105.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, while agreeing with the Court, in Perez v. Brownell, ante, p. 356 U. S. 44, that there is no constitutional infirmity in § 401(e) which expatriates the citizen who votes in a foreign political election, concluded in this case that § 401(g) lies beyond the power of Congress to enact. Pp. 356 U. S. 105-114.

Page 356 U. S. 87

For dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, joined by MR. JUSTICE BURTON, MR. JUSTICE CLARK and MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, see post, p. 356 U. S. 114.

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