Courthouse Steps: Maslenjak v. United States Decided - Podcast
Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
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At the close of the Bosnian civil war, Divna Maslenjak sought refuge for herself and her family in the U.S. due to fear of persecution regarding their Serbian identity in modern-day Bosnia and the threat of reprisal against her husband, who she claimed had evaded military conscription in the Bosnian Serb militia. After the family was granted refuge and Maslenjak became a U.S. citizen, a U.S. court convicted Maslenjak’s husband Ratko on two counts of falsifying claims regarding Serbian military service on U.S. government documents, since Ratko had in fact served in the Serbian military. When Ratko applied for asylum to avoid deportation, Divna Maslenjak admitted to lying about her husband’s military service and was charged with two counts of naturalization fraud for previously denying that she had given false information to a U.S. official. At her trial, jurors were told that a naturalization fraud conviction could be carried out for false claims in Maslenjak’s application process, even if the claims did not affect whether she was approved. Convicted on both counts, Divna Maslenjack faced two years of probation and lost her citizenship. The Sixth Circuit affirmed her conviction, claiming that naturalization fraud did not require proof of a material false statement.
Vikrant Reddy, a Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, discussed the potential impact of the recent Supreme Court ruling and the main question of the case: whether immaterial false statements should be a basis for withdrawing an individual’s citizenship.