Supreme Court to Decide on Obama Citizenship

A group challenging Barack Obama’s citizenship will finally get its day in court.  Or, more likely, be among the thousands of cases rejected each year by the Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider Friday whether to take up a lawsuit challenging President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship, a continuation of a New Jersey case embraced by some opponents of Obama’s election.

The meeting of justices will coincide with a vigil by the filer’s supporters in Washington on the steps of the nation’s highest court. The suit originally sought to stay the election, and was filed on behalf of Leo Donofrio against New Jersey Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells.

Legal experts say the appeal has little chance of succeeding, despite appearing on the court’s schedule. Legal records show it is only the tip of an iceberg of nationwide efforts seeking to derail Obama’s election over accusations that he either wasn’t born a U.S. citizen or that he later renounced his citizenship in Indonesia.

Given that no serious person questions Obama’s citizenship and that the Court has a longstanding doctrine denying ordinary citizens standing to sue over such matters, I can’t imagine four Justices will decide to grant cert.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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. Alex Knapp says:

    This lawsuit is absurd. Everybody knows that Barack Obama is the illegitimate child of Malcolm X. Ergo, he is the son of two United States citizens.

    This lawsuit is no doubt part of an evil liberal conspiracy to hide the truth about Obama’s paternity by maintaining the lie that Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. is really BHO Jr’s daddy…

  2. markm says:

    …I thought the “issue” was settled this past summer some time.

  3. DC Loser says:

    We haven’t heard yet from Manning, this blog’s resident doubter of Obama’s citizenship status.

  4. odograph says:

    Man, if the Justices ever wanted excitement …

  5. Drew says:

    Leo needs to seek professional help. He won fair and square. Its over. Move on.

    I understand there is another group that wants to bring RICO charges for voter fraud. What a circus that woulkd be……

  6. Benjamin says:

    Mr. Joyner and those commenting here obviously know nothing of Donofrio’s case – which does not question the “citizenship” of Obama. He sued the New Jersey SoS for failing to keep three ineligible candidates off the ballot, since they were not at birth “natural born citizens” of the United States: John McCain, Roger Calero, and Barack Obama.

    You need to take a look at your Constitution, which clearly draws a distinction between “citizen” and “natural born citizen.” The only place “natural born citizen” is mentioned is in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution regarding eligibility for president.

    John A. Bingham, the Framer of the 14th Amendment, defined natural born citizen as follows: “every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen.” Obama, whose father was a British subject, had dual nationalities at birth, and thus would not be considered a natural born citizen. The definition above is only Bingham’s opinion, but it is certainly on point. There is also ample case law supporting Donofrio’s position, i.e., Perkins v. ELG, 307 U.S. 325 (1939. There is, however, not a clear definition of natural born citizen in the Constitution, so the issue is “ripe” for consideration by the Supreme Court of the United States. It would not be surprising if four of the justices vote to give Donofrio’s case a full hearing.

  7. Floyd says:

    No serious person would ever question Obama, since no person who questioned him would be considered serious.
    What incredibly beautiful “robes” he has had spun from the purest gold!

  8. CalifGirlInMaine says:

    Floyd, maybe more people ought to be questioning Obama, whether or not they’re considered serious — there are too many things we do not know about him, and he has told too many lies for us to trust him.

    Oh, and his beautiful golden robes — something like the “Emperor’s New Clothes”????

  9. PD Shaw says:

    Benjamin, I would suggest you look at the political question doctrine, which your argument suggests applies here. The term “natural born citizen” is undefined, there are inadequate judicial standards to apply, and it is imprudent for the Supreme Court to veto a democratic election.

    Political Question

  10. MM says:

    Way to tear that strawman a new one Floyd.

  11. Drew says:

    Benjamin –

    I will cop to your assertion that I “know nothing of Donofrio’s case.” I have never researched it.

    But in life we often gauge claims made in the public realm against the body of our practical, real life experiences. For this case to have practical merit requires us to believe that Obama and his political team (who undoubtedly were aware, and have been aware, of this potential claim) are idiots. If upheld, present and future historians would judge Obama and his team to be the most reckless and foolish political stooges in the history of the nation. “Sorry folks, thanks for the votes, the victory parties, the motorcades and all, but well, you know, heh-heh, well, you know man we just didn’t think anyone would catch on that I wasn’t eligible in the first place! Damn !! My bad !! But no harm, no foul, OK dudes!?”

    Not to mention precipitating the mother of all Constitutional crises.

    I think Obama was a bad choice; I think he has no track record to recommend him; I don’t agree with his politics. But I don’t think he’s the stupidist MF on the face of the earth who would put himself in a legal position to go down as the greatest laughingstock in Presidential history.

    BTW – where does McCain fail the test?

  12. tom p says:

    BTW – where does McCain fail the test?

    McCain was born in Panama.

  13. Drew says:

    McCain’s Panama bith place is a well worn legal issue.

    Knock yerselves out on this one, people……….

  14. anjin-san says:

    I think Obama was a bad choice; I think he has no track record to recommend him; I don’t agree with his politics.

    Every time Drew says something like this I feel better about Obama…

  15. I will give Benjamin credit for giving a new spin on this one: i.e., instead of argument that Obama was secretly born in Kenya, instead we have the notion that not only does one have to be born in the US, but neither of one’s parents can be of foreign derivation. That’s a new one.

    I will be utterly shocked if the Court grants cert.

    And Drew’s right: McCain’s status has long been a settled issue. See here and here.

    Quite frankly it is time to amend the constitution to allow naturalized citizens the right to run for the presidency. The notion that someone is somehow tainted because they were born elsewhere is nonsensical.

  16. PD Shaw says:

    I’ve looked at the filings I’ve been able to locate at Donfrio’s website and feel obligated to point out that standing does not appear to be an issue in this case.

    To avoid the issues of restrictive federal standing, Donfrio filed his lawsuit under state law against the NJ Secretary of State for failing to certify that the Presidential candidates were qualified under the (ahem) U.S. Constitution.

    Aside from avoiding the standing issue, the immediate impact of this approach is that Donfrio appears mired in state procedural issues, not the least of which is blowing the statute of limitations by filing the lawsuit 8 days before the election. It is imposible to imagine following Bush v. Gore, that the SCOTUS would find a federal imperative that trumps New Jersey’s procedures to insure that electoral issues are resolved promptly, well-before election day.

    Even if the limitations issue is ignored and Donfrio prevails in arguing that Obama is not qualified, the decision would be one solely of New Jersey law. It would not change the national election. It would not impact the law of dozens of other states.

  17. caj says:

    I cannot believe this nonsense is even being considered…people can just not accept that Obama won the election and are trying to keep any hope alive!!!!
    Never heard of anything so ridiculous!!!

  18. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Taylor if you knew anything about constitutional law, you would know the main body of the constitution is not amendable. But then far far wiser men then you will ever be spend a lot of time writing that document. What does not make sense to some is that liberals do not get to impose their will on this nation freely. The basis of law is the Constitution. That is the contract between the governing and the governed. Why is it you think it is nonsensical? Obama has never ever been fully vetted. You do not even know where his drug dealing room mate is right now or if he really stopped doing coke do you? You are just taking a proven liars word for what he says. Lame.

  19. Drew says:

    “Every time Drew says something like this I feel better about Obama…”

    Every time anjin-san says something like this it proves he/she is incapable of arguing the case.

  20. sam says:

    Quite frankly it is time to amend the constitution to allow naturalized citizens the right to run for the presidency. The notion that someone is somehow tainted because they were born elsewhere is nonsensical.

    Right. My understanding is that that provision was put in the Constitution at its inception to prevent some Tory latecomer from ascending to the presidency and undoing the Revolution–how undo was never made clear, but that was the fear.

    The meeting of justices will coincide with a vigil by the filer’s supporters in Washington on the steps of the nation’s highest court.

    The temperature of their asses as they stand on the steps will be equivalent to that of Hell when SCOTUS finds for them.

  21. Steve Plunk says:

    caj,

    I understand your frustration. It’s sort of like the “Bush stole the election” nonsense. Some people cannot let things die.

    Of course, releasing the correct documents would put this all to rest. I think Obama is our president but he is accountable to the entire nation and that would include a full explanation of this.

  22. Drew says:

    Zelsdorf –

    Something tells me you and I share a similar disdain for Obama, and recognize that the circus, uh, I mean campaign just conducted was truly a national disgrace only admired by lightweights……… but coke dealers etc? What’s next, the bj limo argument?

    Look, soon enough the Court will decide to take or not take the case. But methinks the case is tenuous and the odds are oh-so-low.

  23. Pug says:

    You do not even know where his drug dealing room mate is right now or if he really stopped doing coke do you?

    Objection, Your Honor. Irrelevant.

  24. Taylor if you knew anything about constitutional law, you would know the main body of the constitution is not amendable.

    What, you mean like the XIIth amendment that changed elements of Article II, Section 1 or XVIIth that changed portions of Article I, Section 3 about the election of Senators or the change of apportionment in Article II by Section 2 of the XIVth amendment?

    I could go on… (the XXVth, the XIth, the XXIIIth all change portions of the main text as well).

    I fear that it is not I who does not know what he is talking about

  25. tom p says:

    And Drew’s right: McCain’s status has long been a settled issue.

    just for clarification, I was not arguing that, just stating that that is their argument. McCain is more of an American than I ever will be (if you measure by what he has given for his country)

  26. PD Shaw says:

    My understanding is that that provision was put in the Constitution at its inception to prevent some Tory latecomer from ascending to the presidency and undoing the Revolution–how undo was never made clear, but that was the fear.

    The “natural born citizen” language was inserted by committee without explanation or debate. Historians have found, however, that rumors were being circulated at the time that the Federalists wanted to place a European Prince in the Presidency. In other words, a quasi-monarchy was being planned.

  27. Benjamin says:

    Drew,

    Regarding McCain, he was born in Panama, plain and simple. The Naturalization Act of 1790 provided that a person born abroad of two U.S. citizens was a “natural born citizen”; however, in 1795 that Act was repealed and the words “natural born” were removed. McCain is citizen “by statute” and could never be considered a “natural born citizen.” In Resolution 511 (Hillary and Obama among its sponsors), the Senate declared that McCain was a natural born citizen and eligible for the presidency, but this resolution has no legal effect.

    It is clear that the Framers intended a different class of citizenship for those desiring to be president, hence the “natural born” clause. Obama’s problem is that he was a British subject at birth, which would clearly go against the intention of the Framers. This is why they added a grandfather clause for themselves, which states . . . “a natural born citizen, or a citizen at the time of the adoption of this Constitution.” Even though born on American soil, they were subjects of the British monarchy and knew they weren’t natural born citizens.

    I doubt that SCOTUS would overturn an election at this point, but I would not be surprised if they hear the Donofrio case to at least provide a clearer definition of the “natural born” clause.

  28. caj says:

    I just cannot understand why any of this stuff is even flying….would you not think that ANYTHING regarding Obama’s eligibility to even run for President would not have been verified and scrutinized totally beforehand???
    This all smacks to me of someone who is just hell bent on some kind of vendetta and hoping against hope that pigs will fly!!!!
    Obama is President elect for God’s sake….would he jeopardize all that knowing there was some hidden secret somewhere……come on now!!!!

  29. Billy says:

    Dear Benjamin,

    You are a retard.

  30. tom p says:

    This all smacks to me of someone who is just hell bent on some kind of vendetta and hoping against hope that pigs will fly!!!!

    Come on down to the Ozarks caj, and I will introduce you to the Hairy Tree Pigs (yes, they do fly)… a most horrific creature that will eat your living entrails even as you scream that “The election is OVER!!!”

  31. jabberwock says:

    To all…

    Get a life

  32. CalifGirlInMaine says:

    I believe the “natural-born” requirement was to ensure that the President would not have divided loyalties, as one might who held (or had held) dual citizenship, or was naturalized.

    That Obama had held Kenyan citizenship is undisputed, even by Obama himself. One can ask, based on Obama’s actions (not his words), whether he still feels some affinity or loyalty for Kenya. In 2006, he visited Kenya on an Official Government Visa. While there, he supported his cousin Raila Odinga in his bid for the Presidency, stood beside him at rallies, raised funds for Odinga’s campaign, gave a speech to university students criticizing the current pro-American Kenyan government. Since these actions were in violation of his visa, “[t]he Kenyan government lodges an official protest of Obama’s passport abuse and misconduct, and Obama’s actions are denounced by the U.S. State Department as being in direct opposition to U. S. National Security.” Incidentally, Odinga is a Muslim socialist, has ties to Al Qaeda and Muammar Qaddafi of Libya. When he lost the election in Dec. 2007, ” his followers burn women and children alive – in a Christian church where they had sought refuge. Over 1,500 people are ultimately killed in riots, and Odinga is ultimately given the position of Prime Minister to placate his radical supporters and stop further bloodshed.” http://www.obamacitizenshipfacts.org

    More info on the Obama/Odinga connection and Odinga himself:
    http://www.washingtontimes.com
    http://www.kbc.co.ke
    http://www.newsmax.com
    http://www.time.com
    canadafreepress.com

  33. CalifGirlInMaine says:

    Drew — “For this case to have practical merit requires us to believe that Obama and his political team (who undoubtedly were aware, and have been aware, of this potential claim) are idiots. If upheld, present and future historians would judge Obama and his team to be the most reckless and foolish political stooges in the history of the nation.”

    Not necessarily. Many people obviously think that being a “native-born” citizen (born within the U.S.) is the same as “natural-born.” Many are probably unaware of the possible ramifications of dual nationality on presidential eligibility. And if Obama, as a constitutional law scholar, was aware of the potential problem, maybe it was pure arrogance that caused him to run anyway?

  34. ggjr says:

    And if Obama, as a constitutional law scholar, was aware of the potential problem, maybe it was pure arrogance that caused him to run anyway?

    I don’t know, in hind sight it doesn’t look so arrogant – after all he won, and I think in a few months it’ll be clear that the supreme court is not going to overturn the election.

    It’s only arrogant if you lose. If you win its just well placed confidence.

  35. ggjr says:

    BTW, I’m not necessarily saying its a good thing he won, just that he seems to have figured out the odds pretty well when he made his decision.

  36. anjin=san says:

    Every time anjin-san says something like this it proves he/she is incapable of arguing the case.

    Well Drew, if you ever say anything interesting, maybe it will be worth arguing about. The world waits…

  37. Anderson says:

    Taylor if you knew anything about constitutional law, you would know the main body of the constitution is not amendable.

    Pompously wrong. The Constitution is available online, folks — try reading it sometime. There were precisely TWO provisions not amendable, and one’s expired:

    provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

    Note that even the equal suffrage provision is amendable if the states being denied equal suffrage vote in favor.

    As for the “both parents” argument, that’s bogus, as Marc Ambinder illustrated (no link due to hyperactive OTB filter):

    A thinner version of the claim holds that Obama is a citizen, but not a natural born or naturalized citizen and this constitutionally ineligible. This claim rests on a fairly tendentious argument about Obama’s father and mother. Obama Sr., wasn’t a citizen; therefore, his son could not have been born to two U.S. citizens; to be a naturalized citizen, both parents have to be U.S. citizens. Also: the law requires citizen-parents to have spent a certain length of time in the state; Obama’s mother was a woman of the world.

    But the two-citizen parent rule, which is no longer in effect, applied to people born outside the U.S. Obama was born in 1961 in Hawaii, a U.S. state since 1959; (had he been born earlier, it wouldn’t matter — U.S. law granted natural born citizenship to every Hawaiian born after 1900.)

    Now — the 14th amendment is fairly clear on the subject:

    “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

    So — provide authority for the proposition that Obama was not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the U.S. at birth, or else hush.

  38. Franklin says:

    Wow, I hope the far-right nutjobs keep wasting their time on this. Now if we could get something for the far-left nutjobs to waste time on (now that Bush is leaving), maybe we could get something productive done.

  39. cajola says:

    Posted by Franklin | December 5, 2008 | 11:47 am.

    I agree the nut jobs on the right are the ones that keep feeding this crap about Obama…but those on the left are the ones who will rectify the wrongs done by Bush and put this country back to work again and I really don’t regard them as nut jobs….more fair minded and who have more interest in the “middle class”.
    The middle class have been totally ignored by this administration and all for big business.