Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Fink

PETITIONER: Commissioner of Internal Revenue
RESPONDENT: Fink
LOCATION: Florida Department of Labor

DOCKET NO.: 86-511
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 483 US 89 (1987)
ARGUED: Apr 27, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1987

ADVOCATES:
Alan I. Horowitz - argued the cause for petitioner
Donald J. Williamson - on behalf of petitioner
Matthew J. Zinn - argued the cause for respondents
Robert H. Klonoff - on behalf of respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Fink

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 27, 1987 in Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Fink

Donald J. Williamson:

After the allied occupation.

Robert H. Klonoff:

We would submit that the government's test of materiality, the test we urge is the proper one that this Court should adopt for several reasons.

All the documentation that shows the correct date and place of birth is after the allied occupation?

Robert H. Klonoff:

First of all, petitioner's standard of materiality creates an incentive for visa and citizenship applicants to lie and then later rewards the person for his successful lies.

Donald J. Williamson:

That is correct.

Robert H. Klonoff:

And many of the questions that the Court is asking today, it's troublesome to know exactly what the line of investigation would have been and this is the reason why a standard of what Counsel calls doubt free materiality simply is not right, because the government was denied the opportunity back in 1947, of investigating these facts.

Donald J. Williamson:

And that documentation was in fact, available to the Vice Counsel because of the fact he disclosed each one of those residences where it would appear.

Robert H. Klonoff:

The government has the right to get the true identity of the person so that it can make the investigation at the time and determine at the time whether or not the person has the necessary requirements.

Donald J. Williamson:

The document is very clear.

Robert H. Klonoff:

So we submit that the government standard properly balances those two interests.

Donald J. Williamson:

The only ambiguity that arises from it is the fact that it says born in Kaunas but has to Taurage.

Robert H. Klonoff:

Secondly,--

Donald J. Williamson:

Taurage is a different county than Kaunas.

xxx.

Donald J. Williamson:

But the Kaunas place of birth and the incorrect date of birth are, in effect, in the initial registration document.

Robert H. Klonoff:

--our standard, Justice White, is what you suggested in your dissenting opinion in Fedorenko that there would have been an investigation that might have led to the discovery of disqualifying facts and that that has to be proven by clear, convincing and unequivocal evidence.

Donald J. Williamson:

Those other documents you see are reports which are reflected off of that document, but it is not until after the allies occupy that the other correct information is reflected.

Robert H. Klonoff:

And I would say in that regard, in addition to the Attorney General opinion in 1961 endorsing that standard, virtually every court both before and after this Court's Chaunt decision has endorsed that standard.

Donald J. Williamson:

And that's a faulty review again of the Third Circuit which was picked up by the government, but it's available in the Joint Appendix for the examination of the Court.

Robert H. Klonoff:

The only exception is a split decision by the 10th Circuit and some dictum by the 9th Circuit.

Donald J. Williamson:

It's the fold out document that we have in there and I have in it's original form for that particular reason.

Robert H. Klonoff:

But, beyond that the endorsement for this point of view has been sweeping and virtually unanimous by the courts who recognize exactly what I'm arguing today this difficult problem where an individual lies about critical information, who he is, and then tries to come in later after he's gotten his citizenship through the lie and then said, well United States you can't show precisely what an investigation would have uncovered 40 years ago.

Donald J. Williamson:

I see that I've less than five minutes.

Robert H. Klonoff:

That's the problem with the very standard that the petitioner urges.

Donald J. Williamson:

If there are no further questions, I'd like to reserve my additional time for rebuttal.

Yeah, I know a lit of people who misrepresent their birth date and I really don't consider that they're misrepresenting who they are.

Thank you, Mr. Williamson.

That's a little--

Donald J. Williamson:

Thank you.

Robert H. Klonoff:

There's a question, Justice Scalia, and you've raised it there that one of the requirements is that the statement be willful and that it be willful in a sense of trying to deceive the immigration officials, so somebody who's lying for vanity purposes or whatever--