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Schneiderman v. United States

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Brief Fact Summary.

Schneiderman, a naturalized citizen, was a member of workers’/Communist political organizations.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

One who believes in certain changes to the United States’ political system and Constitution can still be attached to the Constitution for citizenship purposes. Additionally, membership in an organization that could merely be interpreted to believe in the violent and forceful overthrow of the United States government—that is, where it is disputed that the organization holds this belief—is not sufficient to show that an individual themselves believes in the violent and forceful overthrow of the U.S. government for citizenship purposes.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Apart from his membership in the League and the Party, the record is barren of any conduct or statement on petitioner's part which indicates in the slightest that he believed in and advocated the employment of force and violence, instead of peaceful persuasion, as a means of attaining political ends.

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Facts.

Schneiderman was a Russian immigrant. When he was 16 years old, he became a charter member of the Young Workers League in Los Angeles. He remained a member for about seven years, and joined the Workers Party in 1925. The Workers Party was the predecessor of the Communist Party of the United States. He also joined the Party’s National Committee in 1934. Schneiderman filed for citizenship in 1927, and became a citizen the same year. When he was naturalized, the law required naturalized citizens to, among other things, be attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.

Issue.

Did Schneiderman believe in such sweeping changes to the U.S. Constitution that he was not attached to the Constitution?

Did Schneiderman believe in and advocate for the violent and forceful overthrow of the government, Constitution, and laws of the United States?

Held.

No, Schneiderman did not believe in such sweeping changes to the U.S. Constitution that he was not attached to the Constitution.

No, Schneiderman did not believe in and advocate for the violent and forceful overthrow of the government, Constitution, and laws of the United States.

Dissent.

Justice Stone

Justice Stone argued that there was in fact sufficient evidence to show that Schneiderman advocated for the violent or forceful overthrow of the government, and that he was not attached to the principles of the Constitution.

Concurrence.

Justice Rutledge

Justice Rutledge argues that citizenship should not be revocable upon reexamination of the merits upon which citizenship was initially granted.

Discussion.

When Schneiderman was naturalized, the law required naturalized citizens to, among other things, be attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.

The Court found Schneiderman’s beliefs did not indicate that he was not attached to the Constitution. The Government argued that Schneiderman testified that he agreed with the principles of the organizations of which he was a member, and that those principles contradicted the Constitution. They included belief in the abolition of private property, the erection of a new proletarian state, a proletariat dictatorship, and the denial of political rights to those who were not members of the Party or the proletariat. The Court held that, although these beliefs call for a change in the present form of government, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of thought, and Article V provides for changes to the Constitution. None of Schneiderman’s beliefs were at odds with the “general political philosophy” of the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment protects private property, but many people hold differing views about the appropriate degree of government ownership. Additionally, the proletariat dictatorship could refer to a society run by workers instead of capitalists, and it is not clear that this dictatorship would eliminate democracy. The Court did not analyze the belief in denying political rights to people who were not members of the Party or the proletariat, because it found that there was insufficient evidence that this was a principle belief of Schneiderman’s organizations.

Finally, the Court held that there was insufficient evidence to show that Schneiderman believed in the violent and forceful overthrow of the Government, Constitution, and laws of the United States, because whether this was a principle of the organizations that Schneiderman was a part of was disputed, and the Court could not attribute a disputed interpretation of an organization’s viewpoint to Schneiderman without an overt act by Schneiderman indicating that that was in fact his belief.


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