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U.S. Supreme Court

Johannessen v. United States, 225 U.S. 227 (1912)

Johannessen v. United States

No. 230

Submitted April 22, 1912

Decided May 27, 1912

225 U.S. 227


Prior decisions of this Court holding that a judgment of a competent court admitting a person to citizenship is, like every other judgment, competent evidence of its own validity, go no further than protecting the judgment from collateral attack.

Congress may authorize direct proceedings to attack certificates of citizenship on the ground of fraud and illegality, and § 15 of the Act of June 29, 1906, 34 Stat. 596, 601, c. 3592, providing for such cases, is a valid exercise of the power of Congress under Art. I, § 8 of the Constitution of the United States.

The foundation of the doctrine of res judicata or estoppel by judgment is that both parties have had their day in court, Southern Pacific R. Co. v. United States, 168 U. S. 1, 168 U. S. 48, and where a certificate of naturalization was issued without the government's appearing, there is no estoppel against it, nor is such a certificate conclusive against the public.

Certificates of naturalization, like patents for land or inventions, when issued ex parte can be annulled for fraud.

How the judicial review of a certificate of naturalization should be conducted rests in legislative discretion.

Quaere as to the conclusive effect of a certificate of naturalization issued after appearance and cross-examination by the government.

Quaere whether, in the absence of statute such as the Act of June 29, 1906, a court of equity could set aside, or restrain the use of, a certificate of naturalization. chanrobles.com-red

Page 225 U. S. 228

The act of June 29, 1906, is not unconstitutional a an exercise of judicial power by the legislative branch of the government, nor is it unconstitutional because retrospective.

The ex post facto provision of the Constitution is confined to law affecting punishment for crime, and has no relation to retrospective legislation of any other description.

An alien has no legal or moral right to retain citizenship obtained solely by fraud, and an act permitting the cancellation of a certificate so obtained is not a punishment, but simply nullifies that which the party had no right to.

The facts, which involve the power of the court under the Act of June 29, 1906, c. 3592, to cancel a certificate of naturalization on the ground that it was fraudulently issued, are stated in the opinion. chanrobles.com-red

Page 225 U. S. 232


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