When several question are certified under Jud.Code, 239, and
answers to part will dispose of the case, answer to the rest may be
Section 9 of the Naturalization Act, c. 3592, 34 Stat. 596,
requires that final hearings upon petitions for naturalization
shall be held entirely in open court; a hearing in the judge's
chambers adjoining the courtroom does not satisfy this
Under § 15 of the act, a certificate of citizenship granted by
the court or judge on a state of facts showing the petitioner not
qualified for citizenship is subject to be annulled in an
independent suit by the United States.
The case is stated in the opinion.
MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Four questions have been certified (Judicial Code, § 239), but
considering the accompanying statement of facts and our views in
respect of the law, answers to the first and fourth will enable the
circuit court of appeals properly to determine the issues involved.
United States v. Britton, 108 U.
, 108 U. S.
"Question 1. Is the final hearing of a petition for
naturalization had in open court as required by sec. 9
Page 243 U. S. 473
of the Act of June 29, 1906, c. 3592, 34 Stat. 599, if, after
the petition is first presented in open court, the hearing thereof
is passed to and finally held in the chambers of the judge
adjoining the courtroom, on a subsequent day and at an hour earlier
than that to which the court has been regularly adjourned?"
"Question 4. May a certificate of citizenship be set aside and
cancelled in an independent suit brought under § 15 of the Act of
June 29, 1906, c. 3592, on the ground that it was illegally
procured, if the uncontradicted evidence at the hearing of the
petition showed indisputably that the petitioner was not qualified
by residence for citizenship, and that the court or judge who heard
the petition and ordered the certificate misapplied the law and the
Prior to 1906, the "Uniform Rule of Naturalization" authorized
by the Constitution was found in the Act of 1802 and a few
amendments thereto. This enumerated only general controlling
principles. Grievous abuses having arisen, Congress undertook, by
the Act of June 29, 1906, 34 Stat. 596, to prescribe "and fix a
uniform system and a code of procedure in naturalization matters."
Report Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, H.R. 1789, Feb.
26, 1906. This specifies with circumstantiality the manner ("and
not otherwise") in which an alien may be admitted to become a
citizen of the United States; what his preliminary declaration
shall be; form and contents of his sworn petition to the court and
witnesses by which it must be verified; form of oath to be taken in
open court; necessary proof concerning residence, character, etc.
The clerk is required to post notice of the petition with details
concerning applicant, when final hearing will take place, names of
witnesses by which alleged facts are to be established, etc. And it
is further provided:
"Section 9. That every final hearing upon such petition
Page 243 U. S. 474
shall be had in open court before a judge or judges thereof, and
every final order which may be made upon such petition shall be
under the hand of the court and entered in full upon a record kept
for that purpose, and upon such final hearing of such petition the
applicant and witnesses shall be examined under oath before the
court and in the presence of the court."
"Section 15. That it shall be the duty of the United States
district attorney for the respective districts, upon affidavit
showing good cause therefor, to institute proceedings in any court
having jurisdiction to naturalize aliens in the judicial district
in which the naturalized citizen may reside at the time of bringing
the suit, for the purpose of setting aside and cancelling the
certificate of citizenship on the ground of fraud or on the ground
that such certificate of citizenship was illegally procured. In any
such proceedings the party holding the certificate of citizenship
alleged to have been fraudulently or illegally procured shall have
sixty days' personal notice in which to make answer to the petition
of the United States, and if the holder of such certificate be
absent from the United States or from the district in which he last
had his residence, such notice shall be given by publication in the
manner provided for the service of summons by publication or upon
absentees by the laws of the state or the place where such suit is
In Johannessen v. United States, 225 U.
, we discussed the purpose and effect of the
An alien who seeks political rights as a member of this nation
can rightfully obtain them only upon terms and conditions specified
by Congress. Courts are without authority to sanction changes or
modifications; their duty is rigidly to enforce the legislative
will in respect of a matter so vital to the public welfare.
Section 9 requires a final hearing upon the petition in
Page 243 U. S. 475
open court. The term "open court" is used in contradistinction
to a judge sitting in chambers. Bouvier's Law Dict. The whole
statute indicates a studied purpose to prevent well known abuses by
means of publicity throughout the entire proceedings. Its plain
language repels the idea that any part of a final hearing may take
place in chambers, whether adjoining the courtroom or
No alien has the slightest right to naturalization unless all
statutory requirements are complied with, and every certificate of
citizenship must be treated as granted upon condition that the
government may challenge it, as provided in § 15, and demand its
cancellation unless issued in accordance with such requirements. If
procured when prescribed qualifications have no existence in fact,
it is illegally procured; a manifest mistake by the judge cannot
supply these nor render their existence nonessential.
Question numbered one must be answered in the negative; numbered
four in the affirmative
And it is so ordered.