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Case Name Mendoza-Martinez v. Mackey [Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez] IM-CA-0139
Docket / Court 1334-ND ( S.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Case Summary
The information contained within this case summary was derived from published opinions of the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. This case summary also cites information from court filings submitted by counsel for the ... read more >
The information contained within this case summary was derived from published opinions of the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. This case summary also cites information from court filings submitted by counsel for the plaintiffs and the defendants.

The plaintiff in this action was born in the United States in 1922, possessing both American and Mexican citizenship. In 1942, he left the United States for Mexico to avoid conscription during World War II. After returning to the United States in 1946, he was convicted of draft evasion. On February 3, 1953, the plaintiff was served with a warrant for arrest by the former Immigration and Nationality Service pursuant to a deportation order alleging expatriation. Expatriation involved a process, provided in Section 401(j) the Nationality Act of 1940, wherein a U.S. citizen could have their nationality revoked by fleeing the country to evade military service during a national emergency.

After exhausting his administrative remedies, the plaintiff sued the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization and the U.S. Attorney General. Mendoza-Martinez v. Mackey, 238 F.2d 239, 240 (9th Cir. 1956), vacated, 356 U.S. 258 (1958). The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment, seeking court recognition of his citizenship, and to have Section 401(j) declared unconstitutional. Id. Affirming the judgment entered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, the Ninth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of Section 401(j) on November 2, 1956. Id.

The plaintiff requested Supreme Court review of the Ninth Circuit’s holding, which was granted. Only a week before his case was to be considered, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958). There, the Court considered a different section of the Nationality Act, Section 401(g), which empowered the government to strip citizenship from individuals dishonorably discharged from the military for wartime desertion. Concluding that revoking citizenship as a form of punishment was impermissibly cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment, the Court declared Section 401(g) to be unconstitutional.

On April 7, 1958, the Supreme Court vacated the holding of the Ninth Circuit as to this case, and instructed the District Court to reconsider its holding in light of Trop v. Dulles. Mendoza-Martinez v. Mackey, 356 U.S. 258 (1958). On September 24, 1958, the District Court held that, Section 401(j) was not rationally related to the war powers assigned to Congress under the constitution. Therefore, Congress lacked the authority to enact Section 401(j), rendering the provision unconstitutional. Accordingly, the Court held that the petitioner must be recognized as a citizen of the U.S. Because the district court had held a federal statute unconstitutional, the government (then) had the right of direct appeal to the Supreme Court.The government appealed.

After the case was argued in the Supreme Court, the Court asked the parties to brief additional questions as to whether the plaintiff’s initial conviction for draft evasion would have been possible if he had been stripped of his citizenship at the time of that conviction. Mackey v. Mendoza-Martinez, 362 U.S. 384, 386 (1960). If that conviction constituted a conclusive determination that he was a citizen, that issue would be barred from subsequent judicial consideration. Accordingly, the later ruling as to the constitutionality of Section 401(j) would have been unnecessary, and thus prohibited. To resolve these issues, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the District Court once again. Id. at 387.

On October 18, 1960, the District Court held that the Mendoza-Martinez’s conviction for draft evasion was not a determination concerning his citizenship status and did not prevent the government from asserting that his citizenship had been revoked pursuant to Section 401(j). Mendoza-Martinez v. Rogers, 192 F. Supp. 1, 2 (S.D. Cal. 1960). As such, the District Court determined that it could address the constitutionality of Section 401(j), which it, again, held to be unconstitutional. The decision was, again, appealed by the government, and the Supreme Court affirmed on February 18, 1963. First, the Supreme Court agreed that the petitioner’s conviction resolved nothing as to his citizenship, therefore permitting review of Section 401(j). Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 157 (1963).

Moving to the merits, the Supreme Court held that it did not need to decide the question whether Section 401(j) exceeded Congress’s power, because the denaturalization it imposed constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Instead, the Court addressed the process by which Section 401(j) was implemented. The Court held that Section 401(j) was procedurally improper, because it purported to “automatically—without prior court or administrative proceedings—impose forfeiture of citizenship.” The Court examined whether this result was “penal in character,” explaining that if it was, it was unconstitutional under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, which require notice, the right to confront witnesses, trial by jury, and the assistance of counsel.

In its decision, the Court set out what have come to be known as the Mendoza-Martinez factors, as “the tests traditionally applied to determine whether an Act of Congress is penal or regulatory in character,.” These are:
Whether the sanction involves an affirmative disability or restraint, whether it has historically been regarded as a punishment, whether it comes into play only on a finding of scienter, whether its operation will promote the traditional aims of punishment—retribution and deterrence, whether the behavior to which it applies is already a crime, whether an alternative purpose to which it may rationally be connected is assignable for it, and whether it appears excessive in relation to the alternative purpose assigned.”
All “are all relevant to the inquiry,” the Court said, though they “may often point in differing directions.”

Examining these issues, the Supreme Court found that the act was indeed penal, and on that basis affirmed the lower court’s holding. Therefore, the Court concluded that the Section 401(j) Expatriation provision of the Nationality Act was unconstitutional. The case is now closed.

Charles Baeder - 10/18/2019

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Over/Unlawful Detention
Constitutional rights
Deportation - criteria
U.S. citizenship - losing
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service
Plaintiff Description Mexican-American dual-citizen convicted of draft evasion and subjected to expatriation.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 1953
Case Closing Year 1963
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Oyez: Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez
Date: Nov. 11, 2019
(Cornell Legal Information Institute, Justia, Chicago-Kent College of Law)
Citation: Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, Oyez, (last visited Nov 11, 2019).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
S.D. Cal.
IM-CA-0139-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: Papers of Stephen Pollak
U.S. Court of Appeals
Opinion (238 F.2d 239)
IM-CA-0139-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Supreme Court
Opinion (356 U.S. 258)
IM-CA-0139-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
S.D. Cal.
[District Court Opinion]
IM-CA-0139-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: Papers of Stephen Pollak
U.S. Supreme Court
Brief of American Civil Liberties Union as Amicus Curiae (1959 WL 101609)
IM-CA-0139-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Supreme Court
[Memo in SCOTUS]
IM-CA-0139-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: Papers of Stephen Pollak
U.S. Supreme Court
Opinion (362 U.S. 384)
IM-CA-0139-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
S.D. Cal.
Opinion (192 F.Supp. 1)
IM-CA-0139-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Supreme Court
Opinion (372 U.S. 144)
IM-CA-0139-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
S.D. Cal.
[Guilty plea]
IM-CA-0139-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: Papers of Stephen Pollak
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Judges Bone, Homer Truett (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Goldberg, Arthur Joseph (SCOTUS) show/hide docs
Hamley, Frederick George (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Jertberg, Gilbert H. (S.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0139-0002 | IM-CA-0139-0009
Orr, William Edwin (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Yankwich, Leon Rene (S.D. Cal., C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Carter, James Marshall (California) show/hide docs
Davis, Thomas R (California) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Carliner, David (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Wasserman, Jack (District of Columbia) show/hide docs

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