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Kungys v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States
485 U.S. 759 (1988)


Kungys (plaintiff) came to the United States from Germany in 1947. He gained citizenship in 1954. In 1982, the United States sought to denaturalize Kungys pursuant to § 340(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (the Act) because Kungys’ citizenship had been illegally procured. The U.S. government (defendant) alleged three grounds. First, the government alleged that Kungys had participated in executing thousands of Lithuanian citizens in 1941. The government offered videotaped depositions from the Soviet Union in support of this claim, but the district court found them unreliable and insufficient to sustain the charge that Kungys had participated in the atrocities. Second, the government argued that Kungys had made false statements in his naturalization petition with respect to his date and place of birth, wartime occupations, and wartime residence. The district court found that these false statements had been made, but that they were not material within the meaning of § 340(a), as interpreted by Chaunt v. United States, 364 U.S. 350 (1960). Third, the government argued that Kungys’ citizenship had been illegally procured because at the time of naturalization he lacked good moral character required by § 316(a) and § 101(f)(6) of the Act. The district court ruled that the statements were not covered by § 101(f)(6) because they were not material. Having rejected these three points, the district court ruled in favor of Kungys. The government appealed. The Third Circuit declined to pass on the first asserted ground (participation in the atrocities), reversed on the second ground, concluding that Kungys’ willful misrepresentation was material, and agreed on the third ground that the false testimony must have been material to show lack of good moral character. Kungys appealed. The issues on appeal were whether the misrepresentations were material, and whether the misrepresentations rendered his citizenship “illegally procured” because they established he lacked good moral character.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J.)

Concurrence (Stevens, J.)

Concurrence (Brennan, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (O’Connor, J.)

Dissent (White, J.)

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