• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that Congress could not authorize the military to deprive a soldier of his citizenship. A plurality of four justices wanted to rule that expatriation was a cruel and unusual punishment, violating the Eighth Amendment.

Based on several acts of Congress, Albert Trop was sentenced to involuntary expatriation for the crime of wartime desertion. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overturned the sentence on narrow grounds. Speaking for a plurality, Chief Justice Earl WarrenWarren, Earl;Trop v. Dulles[Trop v. Dulles] argued that the punishment violated the Eighth Amendment and that the amendment “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Warren’s opinion was accepted by a majority of the justices in 1967, and his dictum (individual, nonbinding statement) on the meaning of the Eighth Amendment has often been quoted in capital punishment cases.Cruel and unusual punishment;Trop v. Dulles[Trop v. Dulles]

On the same day that Trop was announced, the Court also issued a companion decision, Perez v. Brownell[case]Perez v. Brownell[Perez v. Brownell] (1958), in which the justices voted five to four to uphold the revocation of a person’s citizenship for voting in a foreign election. In a strong dissent, Chief Justice Warren repeated the arguments he used in his Trop opinion. In Afroyim v. Rusk[case]Afroyim v. Rusk[Afroyim v. Rusk] (1967), the Court accepted Warren’s point of view, reversed the Perez decision, and held that the expatriation provision of the Nationality Act of 1940 was unconstitutional.

Capital punishment

Citizenship

Cruel and unusual punishment

Eighth Amendment

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