Rowoldt v. Perfetto

PETITIONER: Charles Rowoldt
LOCATION: Former Immigration and Naturalization Service Office St. Paul Minnesota

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 355 US 115 (1957)
ARGUED: Nov 13, 1956 / Nov 14, 1956
REARGUED: Oct 14, 1957
DECIDED: Dec 09, 1957

Carl H. Imlay - for the respondent
David Rein - for the petitioner
Joseph Forer - for the petitioner on reargument
Oscar H. Davis - for the respondent on reargument

Facts of the case

Charles Rowoldt, a German citizen living in the United States, received an order of deportation under the Internal Security Act of 1950 because of his membership in the Communist Party. Rowoldt admitted to joining the Party for about a year and working at a Communist bookstore. However, he contended that he should not be deported because he joined the Party to "fight for his daily needs" and get "something to eat and something to crawl into." The Internal Security Act contained an exception for those who joined the Party to obtain food, employment, or other necessities of living. Rowolt also indicated that he was not aware that anyone in the Party supported violent overthrow of the government. Rowoldt sought a writ of habeas corpus from the District Court for the District of Minnesota, but his writ was denied because there was enough evidence to support his membership in the Party. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the District Court's judgment.


Was Rowoldt a member of the Communist Party within the definition of Internal Security Act of 1950?

Media for Rowoldt v. Perfetto

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 14, 1957 (Part 2) in Rowoldt v. Perfetto
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 13, 1956 in Rowoldt v. Perfetto
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 14, 1956 in Rowoldt v. Perfetto

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 14, 1957 (Part 1) in Rowoldt v. Perfetto

Earl Warren:

-- Charles Rowoldt, petitioner, versus J.D. Perfetto, Acting Officer in Charge Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Justice.

Mr. Rein.

David Rein:

Thank you Your Honor.

This is an action to review and set aside a deportation order entered against the petitioner.

The petitioner here is an alien, a native of Germany.

He is 73 years of age and he has resided in the United States since 1940 at which time he entered permanent residence.

He has lived here in other words for a period of about 43, 44 years.

He applied for citizenship in 1942, but citizenship was denied.

The deportation order here is based upon the statute Section 22 of the Internal Security Act which was enacted in 1950.

This section provides for the deportation of aliens who were at any time in the past members of the Communist Party.

The order here was based upon a finding by the Immigration and Naturalization Service that the petitioner had been a member of the Communist Party for about six months in the year 1935, that's 15 years before the passage of the act which authorized his deportation.

The finding of the Immigration Service in this case rests entirely upon a statement which was made by petitioner under oath to a representative of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

That statement is set out substantial in full in our brief appearing at pages 4 to page 11.

I wish to direct the Court's attention at this time to certain portions of that statement which we believe are the more significant portions bearing upon the issues in this case.

Reading from page 5 of our brief a question was put to the petitioner, “What was purpose of your joining the Communist Party?”

Answer, “The purpose was probably this, it seemed to me that it came hand in hand, the Communist Party and the fight for bread.

It seemed to me like this; let's put it this way that the Communist Party and Workers alliance had one aim -- to get something to eat for the people.”

On the same theme at page 10 of our brief toward the end of the statement, the question was again put to the petitioner, “Again referring to your joining the Communist Party in 1935 was this motivated by the satisfaction and living under a democracy?”

Answer, “No, not by that.”

“Just a matter of having no jobs at that time, everybody around me had the idea that we had to fight for something to eat and cloths and shelter.

We were not thinking then -- anyways the fellows around me of overthrowing anything.

We wanted something to eat and something to crawl into.”

Question, “You say fight for something to eat and crawl into.

What do you mean by that term?”


“We had to go and ask those who had it -- that was the courthouse at that time.

We petitioned city, state and national government.

We did and we succeeded.

We finally got unemployment laws and a certain budget.

Even at the few communist meetings I attended, nothing was ever said about overthrowing anything.