ROWOLDT v. PERFETTO
Charles Rowoldt, a German citizen living in the United States, received an order of deportation under the Internal Security Act of 1950 because of his membership in the Communist Party. Rowoldt admitted to joining the Party for about a year and working at a Communist bookstore. However, he contended that he should not be deported because he joined the Party to “fight for his daily needs” and get “something to eat and something to crawl into.” The Internal Security Act contained an exception for those who joined the Party to obtain food, employment, or other necessities of living. Rowolt also indicated that he was not aware that anyone in the Party supported violent overthrow of the government. Rowoldt sought a writ of habeas corpus from the District Court for the District of Minnesota, but his writ was denied because there was enough evidence to support his membership in the Party. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s judgment.
Was Rowoldt a member of the Communist Party within the definition of Internal Security Act of 1950?
Legal provision: Smith, Subversive Activities Control, Communist Control, or other similar federal legislation except the Internal Security Act (qv.)
No. In a 5-4 decision, Felix Frankenfurter delivered the opinion of the court, holding that Rowoldt did not have a “meaningful relationship” with the Communist Party as required by the Internal Security Act. The record was insufficient to support the order of deportation and the Supreme Court reversed the lower court decision. Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote a dissent stating that he believed the record indicated that Rowoldt joined the Party knowing of its active political nature, regardless of whether he believed in violent overthrow of the government.