MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a case brought under § 9 (a) of the Trading with the Enemy Act, 40 Stat. 411, as amended, 50 U. S. C. App. § 1 et seq.,
Accepting the allegations as true for the purpose of dealing with the legal issues raised by the motions to dismiss, the situation before us may be briefly stated. Guessefeldt, a German citizen, lived continuously in
The first question to be decided is whether the claimant was "resident within" the territory of a nation with which this country was at war within the meaning of §§ 2 and 9 (a) of the Trading with the Enemy Act. He was physically within the enemy's territory. He contends, however, that the meaning conveyed by "resident within" is something more than mere presence; at the least a domiciliary connotation, if not domicile, is implied.
Legislative history leaves the meaning shrouded. Some use of the term "domicile" as the touchstone of enemy status is to be found in the Congressional hearings and reports.
Guessefeldt retained his American domicile. Moreover, if anything more than mere physical presence in enemy territory is required, it would seem clear that he was not an "enemy" within the meaning of § 2. His stay before the war, as a matter of choice, was short. The circumstances negative any desire for a permanent or long-term connection with Germany. He intended, and indeed attempted, to leave there before this country entered the war. Being there under physical constraint, he is almost literally within the excepted class as authoritatively indicated by Mr. Montague. To hold that "resident within" enemy territory implies something more than mere physical presence and something less than domicile is consistent with the emanations of Congressional purpose manifested in the entire Act, and the relevant extrinsic light, including the decisions of lower courts on this issue, which we note without specifically approving any of them. See McGrath v. Zander, 85 U. S. App. D. C. 334, 177 F.2d 649; Josephberg v. Markham, 152 F.2d 644; Stadtmuller v. Miller, 11 F.2d 732; Vowinckel v. First Federal Trust Co., 10 F.2d 19; Sarthou v. Clark, 78 F.Supp. 139.
Guessefeldt has the further obstacle of § 39 to clear before he can succeed. Congress in 1948, so the Government's
It is clear that the Custodian can lawfully vest under § 5 a good deal more than he can hold against a § 9 (a) action. Central Union Trust Co. v. Garvan, 254 U.S. 554; Clark v. Uebersee Finanz-Korp., 332 U.S. 480. Thus Congress had to make provision for the disposal of two classes of vested property. Nonenemy property, lawfully vested under § 5, was recoverable in a suit against the Custodian. § 9 (a); see Becker Steel Co. v. Cummings, 296 U.S. 74. The second class, property owned by "enemies" and therefore not subject to recovery under § 9 (a), was reserved for disposition "[a]fter the end of the war . . . as Congress shall direct." 40 Stat. 411, 423, 50 U. S. C. App. § 12.
After both wars, Congress did adopt measures to dispose of this property. The Treaty of Berlin, 42 Stat. 1939, 1940, at the end of World War I, confirmed the possession of vested enemy property by the United States. Junkers v. Chemical Foundation, Inc., 287 F. 597; Lange v. Wingrave, 295 F. 565; Klein v. Palmer, 18 F.2d 932. For
Section 39 was passed as part of a measure establishing a commission on the problem of compensating American prisoners of war, internees and others who suffered personal injury or property damage at the hands of World War II enemies. Congressional attention was focused on the nature and extent of these claims and methods of adjudicating them. The issues involved in § 39 were of peripheral concern. Reading the legislative history in this light, it lends support to the view that § 39 was conceived as dealing with property not otherwise subject to return. Senate hearings opened with detailed testimony analyzing the value of assets which would be left after payments for administration and liquidation, returns under § 32, and disbursements in satisfaction of judgments in suits brought under § 9 (a). Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on H. R. 4044, 80th Cong., 2d Sess. 12-21. See also id., at 44, and Hearings before the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce on H. R. 873, 80th Cong., 1st Sess. 264. It seems clear that the legislation looks to the disposition of this fund, and the conclusion is reinforced by the provision of the section that "The net proceeds remaining upon the completion of administration, liquidation, and disposition pursuant to the provisions of this Act of any such property or interest
The tenor of the hearings demonstrates no purpose to change the existing scope of § 9 (a). The only reason a proviso to that effect was not included in § 39 as passed seems to be an assumption—unwarranted in the light of other evidence before the committees discussed below —that a national of any enemy nation had no rights under § 9 (a) in any case.
By § 39 Congress was manifesting its "firm resolve not to permit the recurrence of events which after the close of World War I led to the return of enemy property to their former owners." H. R. Rep. No. 976, 80th Cong., 1st Sess. 2. Those events, as we have seen, culminated in the Settlement of War Claims Act of 1928 permitting enemies as defined in § 2 of the Trading with the Enemy
On the other hand, both Senate and House committees had before them testimony calling attention to the very problem now in issue. Hearings before the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, supra, at 265; Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, supra, at 197, 254. And one witness presented a draft substitute for the section, complex to be sure, which would expressly have saved cases like Guessefeldt's from the operation of the bill. Id., at 233-236. This suggestion was not acted upon by the committee. Yet taken as a whole, the testimony on this issue was meagre and unimpressive. It was largely in written form, and therefore less likely to have been seen by or to have had impact on the committee members or to reflect their views. These considerations, taken together with the peripheral character of the problem from the committees' point of view, the consistent failure to appreciate the technical significance of the term "enemy national" in the framework of the Act, and the fact that the matters raised by this testimony were not touched upon in floor debate—all go far to overcome any presumption that the claimant's situation was considered by Congress and rejected.
Moreover, a decision for the Government would require us to decide debatable constitutional questions. In
On the other side is Mr. Justice (then Judge) Cardozo's careful opinion in Techt v. Hughes, 229 N.Y. 222, 128 N. E. 185, holding that a national of an enemy country, wherever resident, is an enemy alien and that any mitigation of the rigors of that status, as in the right to sue, is a matter of grace. He suggests, however, that "enemy alien" for the purpose of trade with the enemy may be something different than for other purposes, but he had, of course, no occasion to consider whether this difference attained constitutional dimensions. In Klein v. Palmer,
Certainly, the constitutional problem is not imaginary, and the claim not frivolous which would have to be rejected to decide in the Government's favor. Considering that confiscation is not easily to be assumed, a construction that avoids it and is not barred by a fair reading of the legislation is invited.
The concern of the Trading with the Enemy Act is with problems at once complicated and far-reaching in their repercussions. Instead of a carefully matured enactment, the legislation was a makeshift patchwork. Such legislation strongly counsels against literalness of application. It favors a wise latitude of construction in enforcing its purposes. Cf. Clark v. Uebersee Finanz-Korp., 332 U.S. 480; Markham v. Cabell, 326 U.S. 404; Silesian-American Corp. v. Clark, 332 U.S. 469.
The judgment below is
MR. JUSTICE CLARK took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINSON, with whom MR. JUSTICE REED and MR. JUSTICE MINTON join, dissenting.
I dissent because I would read Section 39 as it is written. That Section plainly forbids return of vested property to "any national" of Germany or Japan.
The term "national" has also been given legislative definition. "National" is defined as including "a subject, citizen or resident of a foreign country" in Executive Order No. 8389,
Just the other day, we held that "[w]e are not free, under the guise of construction, to amend [a] statute" by reading "carefully distinguished and separately defined terms to mean the same thing." Pillsbury v. United Engineering Co., 342 U.S. 197, 199-200 (1952). In departing from that standard in this case, the Court rewrites Section 39 so that the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, as amended, will conform more closely to its own notions of statutory symmetry. Condemning that Act as
In my view, this case should be decided on the basis of the legislatively defined language of Section 39. But the Court has broadened the inquiry. Even on the Court's own basis, the result in this case cannot be squared with the history of the Trading with the Enemy Act, the legislative background of Section 39 or the scope of Congress' war power over enemy property.
At the outset, it should be clearly understood that when petitioner's property was vested, he was an alien enemy in every ordinary sense of that term. So long as his citizenship was German, he became an enemy upon the declaration of war with Germany, wherever his residence and whatever his personal sentiments. This Court has so held throughout its history.
When, in 1917, Congress defined the term "enemy" solely "for the purposes of" the Trading with the Enemy Act, it was aware that such status was ordinarily determined by "nationality or allegiance of the individual" rather than by "domicile or residence."
World War II legislation over alien property represented a complete reversal of the soft policy of World War I. In 1941, Congress extended the power of seizure and vesting to all property of "any foreign country or national thereof" in exercising its war power "to affirmatively compel the use and application of foreign property
Under this reversal of World War I policy, the property of German nationals, including petitioner's, was to be retained to satisfy war claims arising out of German aggression. The policy of non-return of vested property to German nationals restricts the scope of Section 9 (a) as to returns to German nationals such as petitioner who are not "enemies" as defined in Section 2 (a). The primary purpose of Section 9 (a)—to provide for judicial return of property mistakenly seized from American citizens or nationals of friendly countries—is preserved.
The Court closes with the statement that its construction of Section 39 avoids a constitutional problem which, it says, "is not imaginary." As discussed above, it is settled that petitioner is an alien enemy in every sense of the word but the purposely restrictive definition of Section 2 (a) of the Trading with the Enemy Act. "There is no constitutional prohibition against confiscation of enemy properties." United States v. Chemical Foundation, Inc., 272 U.S. 1, 11 (1926), and cases cited therein. The suggestion that the relaxed legislative definition of "enemy" in 1917 could limit the constitutional war power of Congress over enemy property finds no support in decisions of this Court.
Any doubts as to Congress' "equal right over persons and property" of enemy aliens should have vanished with the Ludecke decision. The Just Compensation Clause, like the Due Process Clause, is found in the Bill of Rights. As we said in our Ludecke decision, "it would savor of doctrinaire audacity now to find the statute offensive to some emanation of the Bill of Rights." 335 U. S. at 171. In addition to what was said in Ludecke, the admonition of Chief Justice Marshall in Brown v. United States, supra, is appropriate in this case:
The will of Congress having been expressed in unmistakable terms in Section 39, I would enforce, not frustrate, the legislative command.
"(a) Any individual, partnership, or other body of individuals, of any nationality, resident within the territory (including that occupied by the military and naval forces) of any nation with which the United States is at war, or resident outside the United States and doing business within such territory, and any corporation incorporated within such territory of any nation with which the United States is at war or incorporated within any country other than the United States and doing business within such territory."
SEC. 9. "(a) Any person not an enemy . . . claiming any interest, right, or title in any money or other property which may have been conveyed, transferred, assigned, delivered, or paid to the Alien Property Custodian or seized by him hereunder and held by him or by the Treasurer of the United States, . . . may file with the said custodian a notice of his claim under oath and in such form and containing such particulars as the said custodian shall require; . . . [S]aid claimant may institute a suit in equity in the District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia or in the district court of the United States for the district in which such claimant resides, or, if a corporation, where it has its principal place of business (to which suit the Alien Property Custodian or the Treasurer of the United States, as the case may be, shall be made a party defendant), to establish the interest, right, title, or debt so claimed, and if so established the court shall order the payment, conveyance, transfer, assignment, or delivery to said claimant of the money or other property so held . . . or the interest therein to which the court shall determine said claimant is entitled." 50 U. S. C. App. §§ 2, 2 (a), 9 (a).
In Silesian-American Corp. v. Clark, 332 U.S. 469, 475 (1947), the Court stated:
"There is no doubt but that under the war power [Art. I, § 8, cl. 11], as heretofore interpreted by this Court, the United States, acting under a statute, may vest in itself the property of a national of an enemy nation. Unquestionably to wage war successfully, the United States may confiscate enemy property. United States v. Chemical Foundation, 272 U.S. 1, 11." (Emphasis added.)
In discussing the requirement that just compensation be paid for seizure of property of "friendly aliens," the Court had obvious reference to the nationals of friendly nations. 332 U. S. at 475-476, 479-480.