Kungys v. United States

RESPONDENT:United States
LOCATION:Craig, Colorado

DOCKET NO.: 86-228
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 485 US 759 (1988)
REARGUED: Oct 13, 1987
DECIDED: May 02, 1988
ARGUED: Apr 27, 1987

Donald J. Williamson – on behalf of the Petitioner
Robert H. Klonoff – on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Kungys v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument – October 13, 1987 in Kungys v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – May 02, 1988 in Kungys v. United States

Antonin Scalia:

The second case, Kungys versus United States, is here on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

It was argued last term and we argued at the beginning of this term in October.

The case originated in 1982 when the United States filed a complaint against the petitioner, Juozas Kungys, seeking to denaturalize him on various grounds including that he had misrepresented the date and place of his birth in his 1947 visa application and his 1954 naturalization proceeding.

The District Court found against the Government but the Court of Appeals reversed upholding the naturalization on the ground that the petitioner had procured his citizenship by making misstatements as to his date and place of birth that were material as that term was explained in our 1960s decision in Chaunt versus United States.

However, the Court of Appeals held that denaturalization was not appropriate on the additional ground that the petition or citizenship was illegally procured because his false testimony showed that he lack the requisite good moral character within the meaning of the statute.

And the Court of Appeals declined to pass on another ground for denaturalization that the petitioner had participated in executing over 2,000 Lithuanian citizens, most of them Jewish in Kedainiai, Lithuania between July and August of 1941, an allegation that the petitioner denies.

We reversed the judging of the Court of Appeals and remand for further proceedings.

There are many legal issues that lead to that conclusion which you’ve prompted a number of separate opinions.

I shall summarize only those points on which my opinion represents the views of the majority of the Court.

With respect to whether the petitioner had procured his citizenship by material misrepresentations within the meeting 8 U.S.C. Section 1451(a), we hold that the proper test for materiality under that provision is whether the misrepresentations or concealments can be shown by clear unequivocal and convincing evidence to have been predictably capable of affecting that is to have a natural tendency to affect the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s decisions.

This test is consistent with the lower federal court’s uniform understanding of the materiality concept as embodied in other federal statutes criminalizing false statements to public officials.

We also hold that under Section 1451(a) as in other context, the question of whether a misrepresentation is material is a question of law for the Court to decide rather than a question to be decided by the trier of fact.

Finally, we addressed the proper standard for denaturalization under the illegally procured clause of Section 1451(a) which includes procurement by one who does not have good moral character as defined in Section 1101(f)(6) because he has given false testimony for the purpose of obtaining immigration or naturalization benefits.

We conclude first that false testimony is limited to the making of false oral statements under oaths and second, that the false testimony must have been given for the subjective purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.

Once the Government establishes these two elements however, which it must do as for all matters relating to denaturalization by clear unequivocal and convincing evidence, it is not also necessary for the Government to prove that the false testimony was material.

Justice Brennan has filed a separate concurring opinion.

Justice Stevens has filed an opinion joined by Justice Marshall and Justice Blackmun concurring in the judgment.

Justice White joined in part by Justice O’Connor has filed a dissenting opinion.

Justice Kennedy took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.