Court Won’t Review Obama’s Citizenship

United States Supreme Court Building

United States Supreme Court Building

As widely anticipated, the Supreme Court today declined to hear a frivolous case about Barack Obama’s citizenship status.

The Supreme Court has turned down an emergency appeal from a New Jersey man who says President-elect Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was a British subject at birth.  The court did not comment on its order Monday rejecting the call by Leo Donofrio of East Brunswick, N.J., to intervene in the presidential election.

Donofrio says that since Obama had dual nationality at birth — his mother was American and his Kenyan father at the time was a British subject — he cannot possibly be a “natural born citizen,” one of the requirements the Constitution lists for eligibility to be president.  Donofrio also contends that two other candidates, Republican John McCain and Socialist Workers candidate Roger Calero, also are not natural-born citizens and thus ineligible to be president.

At least one other appeal over Obama’s citizenship remains at the court. Philip J. Berg of Lafayette Hill, Pa., argues that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii as Obama says and the Hawaii secretary of state has confirmed. Berg says Obama also may be a citizen of Indonesia, where he lived as a boy. Federal courts in Pennsylvania have dismissed Berg’s lawsuit. Federal courts in Ohio and Washington state have rejected similar lawsuits.

There’s no serious question that Barack Obama was a citizen of the United States at the time of his birth. He was born in Hawaii well after it became a state, which makes it automatic according to both the plain meaning of the 14th Amendment and long established law. Further, as far as the United State government is concerned, there’s no such thing as “dual citizenship” is a non-issue: You’re either an American or you aren’t; if other states choose to recognize an American as one of their citizens, we don’t care so long as the person doesn’t take active means to renounce his American citizenship.

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Photo by Flickr user dbking under Creative Commons license.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m glad this was staved off early. The longer it hung in the air the more likely it was to do damage regardless of the merits.

  2. caj says:

    Absolutely right, what a load of nonsense to start with….let’s hope the folks on the right can now get a life and move on!!!!
    They have tried to play this trash for all it’s worth, just accept the fact that Obama is going to be the new President.

  3. John Burgess says:

    Oh goody! We’ve at least four years’ of Obama Derangement Syndrome and associated conspiracy theories to look forward to!!

    I wonder if there are any jobs in Antarctica available…

  4. JT says:

    It’s amazing what kinds of lawsuits manage to travel throughout the courts before they get brushed off; meanwhile there are hundreds of legitimate challenges to criminal convictions and death row sentences that go ignored.

  5. tom p says:

    Further, as far at the United State government is concerned, there’s no such thing as “dual citizenship.” You’re either an American or you aren’t;

    James, on this point you may be incorrect. From the United States Immigration Support web page:

    “The U.S. government allows dual citizenship. United States law recognizes U.S. Dual Citizenship, but the U.S. government does not encourage it is as a matter of policy due to the problems that may arise from it. It is important to understand that a foreign citizen does NOT lose his or her citizenship when becoming a U.S. citizen. An individual that becomes a U.S. citizen through naturalization may keep his or her original citizenship.”

    also from page 9 of this pdf here:

    the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that dual citizenship is a “status long recognized in the law…” (Kawakita v US, 343 US 717)(1952)

    I think the prf comes from an official US website… but because it does not say “us.gov” I am unsure.

  6. James Joyner says:

    tom: That’s right. I’m just not using precise enough language. I cover this rather extensively in “Obama: Citizen of the World.”

  7. tom p says:

    As you said in that previous post,

    It strikes me as bizarre that someone can have loyalty to two countries and pick and choose among them.

    It strikes me as beyond bizarre considering that the first sentence in the “Oath of Allegiance for Naturalized Citizens” is:

    “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;”

  8. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    The only interesting part of this story is that after Souter rejected the petition, the petitioner brought it again to Clarence Thomas, who put it on the calendar.

  9. Dyre42 says:

    ” I wonder if there are any jobs in Antarctica available…” – John Burgess

    That their are:

    http://www.usap.gov/jobsAndOpportunities/

    Just don’t forget to pack every video game known to man, a ton of books, a pallet of beer, and your sunlamp.

  10. Phil Smith says:

    One would think that people would have learned from the Truthers that this sort of idiocy only serves to tarnish legitimate criticism and dissent that comes from the same ideological neighborhood. On the other hand, the Truthers managed to gather a surprising number of adherents, so who knows?

  11. Floyd says:

    The court turned down the case on the grounds that it was “frivolous”?? I think not.

  12. Simon says:

    Floyd: the court turned it down without comment. The “grounds” for doing so is that their docket is almost purely discretionary, so they can take a case or not take it for any reason they please; they neither have to, nor usually do, give a stated reason for not granting cert.

    JT: if the petitioners in those cases choose to appeal to the Supreme Court, they, too, can have a docket number and one-line entry in an order list under “cert denied.”

  13. I still want to see his birth certificate.

    Its amazing these court cases are being brushed off.

    More amazing he wasnt required to submit a vault copy before he (and the other candidates) made the ticket.

    Its just odd that Obama hasnt made any public statements about this.

    I havent a clue weather he’s a real citizen or not, but its provocative since Obama is giving it the cold shoulder rather than facing it head on and putting an end to it.

  14. Brett says:

    I thought at least one of the attacks was hilarious- the one about how he somehow has British citizenship in spite of being born to an American mother in Hawaii. Where’s my British citizenship, then (my dad is British)?

  15. tom p says:

    Its just odd that Obama hasnt made any public statements about this.
    I havent a clue weather he’s a real citizen or not, but its provocative since Obama is giving it the cold shoulder rather than facing it head on and putting an end to it.

    According to this article:

    “According to a birth certificate for Obama made public by his campaign, the president-elect was born in Hawaii in August 1961, two years after the archipelago became a state.”
    That would seem to me to be “facing it head on” in an attempt to put it to rest. (obviously enough, it was not good enough for some)

    What is a “vault copy”? I have had to get several over the years, and a “certified copy” was always good enough for me and my sons.

  16. ken says:

    I havent a clue weather he’s a real citizen or not,….

    Yeah and who cares about your cluelessness? It is so large that it is futile for a rational society to bother itself over.

  17. Michael says:

    Absolutely right, what a load of nonsense to start with….let’s hope the folks on the right can now get a life and move on!!!!

    If memory serves, this was all started by a Hillary supporter, not anybody on “the right”.

    I havent a clue weather he’s a real citizen or not

    Nor, it seems, as to whether to use “weather” or “whether”.

  18. tom p says:

    If memory serves, this was all started by a Hillary supporter, not anybody on “the right”.

    Michael, my only problem with this whole meme is that, if there had been anything to this, are we supposed to beleive that the Clinton political machine (not to mention the McCain Campaign and the RNC) could find nothing to back it up?

    I for one do not beleive for a second that if the Clinton campaign could have found a way to strike Obama from the primaries, they would have held back (I can assure you, Obama would do the same to her if he had the chance)(“But he turned out to be practical and shrewd, a politician capable of playing hardball to win election (he squeezed every opponent out of his first race)”, )(I can no longer find a story directly telling the tale, but he had his opponents “eliminated” from the race)

    All this is just to say, politics is hardball. He went up against the Clintons and won. If they could not do it, what makes some wingnut from Pennsylvania think he can?

  19. Steve Verdon says:

    Just don’t forget to pack every video game known to man, a ton of books, a pallet of beer, and your sunlamp.

    Can you get an internet connection? If so, I’d be good…well with a couple cases of scotch instead of beer….

  20. tom p says:

    Can you get an internet connection? If so, I’d be good…well with a couple cases of scotch instead of beer….

    single malt of course… eh, Steve?
    By the by, an informal survey: What is your favorite “cheap” single malt? (mine is Aberlour, tho Ardbeg(nice and peaty) is is in the running)

  21. John Burgess says:

    Damn! I forgot they have Internet connections in Antarctica!

    I’m looking for a place without Internet, in order to avoid the lunacy that propagates through it. A place without network or cable TV. Someplace where I can just watch the loonies self-destruct, or preferably hear about it six months later.

    I’ll settle for a national plan to put lithium in the drinking water in the US.

  22. carpeicthus says:

    Since he hasn’t commented, it’s official: This comment thread is a great test to see which commenters are crazier than Bithead. You may pick up your door prizes on the way out.

  23. Bithead says:

    I’m not convinced it’s a good thing, myself, that this got turned down, from several angles.

    For one thing, if I was Obama, I might want the air cleared, assuming that I actually had a valid Birth cert. There’s no denying the case has grown legs in public opinion, and the public interest, to say nothing of Obama’s… would have been well served to have the matter fully read into the record.

    I’m not convinced we should be quite so dismissive of the charge, or those bringing it. Obama may possibly be well proven to be eligible for the office of POTUS, but I have yet to see such an argument presented, from ANY corner, particularly Obama’s. With all respect to James, all he could do was speculate based on what documentation we’ve been presented, which was at least questionably a forgery. Indeed, all I’ve seen is derision of people asking the question, which may or may not be deserved.

    In any event, consider it this way; If he is in fact eligible for the office, is it really so much to ask for him… or anyone else running for the office, for that matter, to prove it?

  24. Michael says:

    In any event, consider it this way; If he is in fact eligible for the office, is it really so much to ask for him… or anyone else running for the office, for that matter, to prove it?

    Prove it to what level? Every legal document he’s presented has been called a forgery, every verification by a government official called a conspiracy, every explanation of the multiple reasons Obama is eligible has been ignored.

    So I ask you, Bithead, to what level should elected officials be obligated to convince conspiracy theorists that they are wrong?

  25. Bithead says:

    Prove it to what level? Every legal document he’s presented has been called a forgery, every verification by a government official called a conspiracy, every explanation of the multiple reasons Obama is eligible has been ignored.

    So I ask you, Bithead, to what level should elected officials be obligated to convince conspiracy theorists that they are wrong?

    So we’re to assume that because Obama fails to cler that bar, that the bar is set too high, instead of questioning his fitness to serve?

  26. Michael says:

    So we’re to assume that because Obama fails to cler that bar, that the bar is set too high, instead of questioning his fitness to serve?

    Obama did clear the bar, for me, for the vast majority of Americans, and for every court that this silly case has been dumped in. Every reasonable bar, set by any reasonable person, has been cleared. The only bar remaining is the one set by people unwilling to accept his eligibility regardless of any amount of evidence shown to them, who in all likelihood could not clear that bar themselves.

    So I ask again, Bithead, to what extent should a political candidate go to prove conspiracy theorists wrong?

  27. An Interested Party says:

    The court turned down the case on the grounds that it was “frivolous”?? I think not.

    Oh, do tell…