Trop v. Dulles

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In Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86 (1958), a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a federal statute that authorized the revocation of citizenship of someone born in the United States based on his desertion from the armed forces as a soldier. The Court held that the Eighth Amendment did not permit this revocation of citizenship as punishment for a crime.

Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the opinion, but only prevailed by:

  • taking the unusual step of scheduling a second argument in the subsequent term of the Court for the case
  • being joined by Justice William Brennan in a concurrence on separate grounds

Chief Justice Warren included this famous quote about the Eighth Amendment: "The Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Justice Anthony Kennedy later cited that holding in invalidating the death penalty for crimes committed by someone under the age of 18, in Roper v. Simmons.

Chief Justice Warren noted that on 81 prior occasions the U.S. Supreme Court had invalidated a law as unconstitutional. Before 1855, the U.S. Supreme Court had declared only one law as unconstitutional, in Marbury v. Madison.

Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote a strong dissent.