Zschernig v. Miller

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Zschernig v. Miller
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued November 7, 1967
Decided January 15, 1968
Full case nameZschernig v. Miller
Citations389 U.S. 429 (more)
88 S. Ct. 664; 19 L. Ed. 2d 683; 1968 U.S. LEXIS 2714
Case history
Prior243 Or. 567; 412 P.2d 781; 415 P.2d 15 (1966)
A state statute allowing an alien to inherit only if his domestic law satisfies one of the specified conditions is unconstitutional because it intrudes into the federal realm of foreign affairs.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · William O. Douglas
John M. Harlan II · William J. Brennan Jr.
Potter Stewart · Byron White
Abe Fortas · Thurgood Marshall
Case opinions
MajorityDouglas, joined by Warren, Black, Brennan, Stewart, Fortas
ConcurrenceStewart, joined by Brennan
ConcurrenceHarlan (in judgment)
Marshall took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Zschernig v. Miller, 389 U.S. 429 (1968),[1] was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States invalidated an Oregon statute for unconstitutionally intruding into the federal realm of foreign affairs even though the statute did not conflict with any federal treaty or statute.[2]


An Oregon resident died and their only heirs were residents of East Germany. When the heirs tried to claim their inheritance, the Stand Land Board attempted to escheat the funds because East Germany would not allow the inheritance if the countries involved were reversed.

Facts of the case[edit]

The Oregon law at issue in the case provided that a nonresident alien could not inherit property from an Oregon decedent unless: 1) the alien's government granted Americans the right to inherit on the same terms as its own citizens, 2) the alien's government gave Americans the right to receive payment in the U.S. from foreign funds, and 3) the alien was able to receive "the benefit, use or control" of the Oregon bequest "without confiscation" by the alien's government.


The court found the law unconstitutional because of "intrusion by the State into the field of foreign affairs which the Constitution entrusts to the President and the Congress."[3] The Supreme Court applied Zschernig in American Insurance Association v. Garamendi, a 2003 case, although they relied more on Justice Harlan's concurring opinion in Zschernig than on the majority's reasoning.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zschernig v. Miller, 389 U.S. 429 (1968).  This article incorporates public domain material from this U.S government document.
  2. ^ 10 U.S. Op. Off. Legal Counsel 49, 61-62 (1986)
  3. ^ Zschernig, 389 U.S. at 432.

External links[edit]