Knauff v. Shaughnessy
Decided on Jan. 16, 1950; 338 US 537


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Immigration, due process

B. Legal Question Presented:

May the United States exclude without hearing, solely upon a finding by the Attorney General that her admission would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States, the alien wife of a citizen who had served honorably in the armed forces of the United States during World War II?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

Petitioner was born in Germany. After 1946, she "secured civilian employment with the War Department of the United States in Germany. Her work was rated 'very good' and 'excellent.' On February 28, 1948, with the permission of the Commanding General at Frankfurt, Germany, she married Kurt W. Knauff, a naturalized citizen of the United States. He is an honorably discharged United States Army veteran of World War II. He is, as he was at the time of his marriage, a civilian employee of the United States Army at Frankfurt, Germany.

On August 14, 1948, petitioner sought to enter the United States to be naturalized. On that day she was temporarily excluded from the United States and detained at Ellis Island. On October 6, 1948, the Assistant Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization recommended that she be permanently excluded without a hearing on the ground that her admission would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States. On the same day the Attorney General adopted this recommendation and entered a final order of exclusion. To test the right of the Attorney General to exclude her without a hearing for security reasons, habeas corpus proceedings were instituted in the Southern District of New York, based primarily on provisions of the War Brides Act. The District Court dismissed the writ, and the Court of Appeals affirmed."

On certiorari the US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of Appeals.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Jack Wasserman filed a brief for the American Civil Liberties Union, as amicus curiae, urging reversal. Gunther Jacobson argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioner. Philip R. Monahan argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Perlman, Assistant Attorney General Campbell, Joseph W. Bishop, Jr. and Robert S. Erdahl.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

Pursuant to the Act of Congress of June 21, 1941, "the President on November 14, 1941, issued Proclamation 2523. This proclamation recited that the interests of the United States required the imposition of additional restrictions upon the entry into and departure of persons from the country and authorized the promulgation of regulations jointly by the Secretary of State and the Attorney General... It was under [one of these] regulations that petitioner was excluded by the Attorney General and denied a hearing...

At the outset we wish to point out that an alien who seeks admission to this country may not do so under any claim of right... In the particular circumstances of the instant case the Attorney General, exercising the discretion entrusted to him by Congress and the President, concluded upon the basis of confidential information that the public interest required that petitioner be denied the privilege of entry into the United States. He denied her a hearing on the matter because, in his judgment, the disclosure of the information on which he based that opinion would itself endanger the public security...

The War Brides Act does not relieve petitioner of her alien status... aside from the enumerated relaxations of the immigration laws she must be treated as any other alien seeking admission. Under the immigration laws and regulations applicable to all aliens seeking entry into the United States during the national emergency, she was excluded by the Attorney General without a hearing. In such a case we have no authority to retry the determination of the Attorney General."

The US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the second Circuit.

Justice Vote: 3 Pro vs. 4 Con

  • Frankfurter, F. Pro (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Pro (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Minton, S. Con (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Vinson, F. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Burton, H. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Reed, S. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Took no part in the decision
  • Clark, T. Took no part in the decision
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the second Circuit; the Supreme Court affirmed in a 3-4 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent loss.