Klapprott v. United States
335 U.S. 601 (1949)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601 (1949)

Klapprott v. United States

No. 42

Argued October 20, 1948

Decided January 17, 1949

335 U.S. 601


Nine years after petitioner had been admitted to citizenship and granted a certificate of naturalization, the United States filed a complaint in a federal district court in New Jersey under 8 U.S.C. § 738 to set aside the order and cancel the certificate. It alleged that his oath of allegiance was false; that subsequently, by writings and speeches, he had evidenced his loyalty to Germany and disloyalty to the United States, and that he was a leader and a member of the German American Bund and other subversive organizations. He was served with notice, but failed to answer within sixty days as required by 8 U.S.C. § 738(b). (Seven days before expiration of the sixty days, he was arrested on federal criminal charges and confined in a New York jail.) Without hearings or evidence, the court entered a default judgment setting aside the order admitting him to citizenship and canceling his certificate of naturalization. More than four years later, and while still a federal prisoner, he filed in the same court a verified petition praying that the default judgment be set aside. Inter alia, he alleged in substance that, while wrongfully holding him in New York, Michigan, and District of Columbia jails, the Government caused a district court in New Jersey to revoke his citizenship on the ground that he had failed to appear and defend, although he was at the time without funds to hire a lawyer. These allegations were undenied. The district court dismissed the petition on the ground of laches. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: the judgments are reversed and the cause is remanded to the district court with instructions to set aside the default judgment and grant petitioner a hearing on the merits of the issues raised by the denaturalization complaint. Pp. 335 U. S. 602-608, 335 U. S. 615-616. [This judgment modified, 336 U.S. 942.]

166 F.2d 273 reversed.

A federal district court entered a default judgment setting aside an order admitting petitioner to citizenship and canceling his certificate of naturalization. More than four years later, he petitioned the same court to set aside the default judgment, but his petition was dismissed on the ground of laches. 6 F.R.D. 450. The Court of

Page 335 U. S. 602

Appeals affirmed. 166 F.2d 273. This Court granted certiorari. 334 U.S. 818. Reversed, pp. 615-616.

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