Trop v. Dulles
|Trop v. Dulles|
|Argued May 2, 1957|
Reargued October 28–29, 1957
Decided March 31, 1958
|Full case name||Albert L. Trop v. John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State, et al.|
|Citations||356 U.S. 86 (more)|
|Prior history||Both District and Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Trop's claim|
|At least as applied in this case to a native-born citizen of the United States who did not voluntarily relinquish or abandon his citizenship or become involved in any way with a foreign nation, § 401(g) of the Nationality Act of 1940, as amended, which provides that a citizen "shall lose his nationality" by deserting the military or naval forces of the United States in time of war, provided he is convicted thereof by court martial and as a result of such conviction is dismissed or dishonorably discharged from the service, is unconstitutional.|
|Plurality||Warren, joined by Black, Douglas, Whittaker|
|Concurrence||Black, joined by Douglas|
|Dissent||Frankfurter, joined by Burton, Clark, Harlan|
|U.S. Const. amend. VIII|
Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86 (1958), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to revoke citizenship as a punishment for a crime. The ruling's reference to "evolving standards of decency" is frequently cited in Eighth Amendment jurisprudence.
Albert Trop was a natural born citizen of the United States who, while serving as a private in the United States Army in 1944, deserted from an Army stockade in Casablanca, Morocco. The next day, he willingly surrendered to an army officer and was taken back to the base, where he was subsequently court-martialed, found guilty, and sentenced to three years at hard labor, forfeiture of pay, and a dishonorable discharge.
In 1952, Trop applied for a passport, which was denied because the Nationality Act of 1940 provided that members of the armed forces of the United States who deserted would lose their citizenship. (A 1944 amendment modified the Act such that a deserter would lose his citizenship only if, on these grounds, he had been dishonorably discharged or dismissed from the military.)
The US district court ruled in favor of the government, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the decision of the district court.
The Supreme Court reversed. In the decision, written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court cited Perez v. Brownell, the Court had held that citizenship could be divested in the exercise of the foreign affairs power. However, "denationalization as a punishment is barred by the Eighth Amendment," describing it as "a form of punishment more primitive than torture" as it inflicts the "total destruction of the individual's status in organized society."
Dissenting, Justice Felix Frankfurter noted that desertion from the military can be punished by the death penalty, leading him to ask, "Is constitutional dialectic so empty of reason that it can be seriously urged that loss of citizenship is a fate worse than death?"