Constitutional Law – Fifth Amendment – Right of Defendant in Denaturalization Proceedings to Refuse to Testify

The United States as plaintiff instituted denaturalization proceedings alleging that deliberately false statements were made by defendant at the time of his naturalization. No “affidavit showing good cause” for such suit, required by section 340 (a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, was filed with the original complaint although one was filed with a later amended complaint. When plaintiff sought to take defendant’s deposition pursuant to rule 26, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, defendant appeared for the examination but refused to be sworn. He was taken before the district court which directed that he be sworn, and he again refused. From a conviction of contempt defendant appealed, alleging that jurisdiction did not attach since the required affidavit was filed after the original complaint, and that pre-trial discovery procedures should not be applied to denaturalization proceedings since, as a defendant in such a proceeding, he was privileged to refuse to take the stand at all. The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that the affidavit could permissibly be filed with an amended complaint, and that denaturalization proceedings are not sufficiently criminal in their nature to entitle a defendant to refuse to take the stand. On certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, held, reversed per curiam. “An affidavit showing good cause is a prerequisite to the initiation of denaturalization proceedings. The affidavit must be filed with the complaint when the proceedings are instituted.” Matles v. United States, 26 U.S. Law Week 3282 (1958).