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Supreme Court today deliberates suit blocking Obama presidency

(UPDATE: The Supreme Court had issued no statement on its discussions by the close of business Friday.)

It may come as something of a shock to those millions planning trips to Washington for the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama that he isn't really legally capable of taking the oath.

It's the birth certificate thing. And we have a tendentious video below to show the kind of claims being made that he is not a "native-born" American.

That's because he was born in Kenya to an alien father and isn't a natural-born American as the Constitution requires and the copy of his Hawaii birth certificate looks fake to many and the state won't release the original, which makes everything that much more suspicious.

This controversy has been brewing for many months online with few taking it seriously. The Ticket wrote about it last June and again in August.

We published a birth certificate provided by the ObaBarack Obama's birth certificate as provided by his presidential campaignma presidential campaign, which has caused hundreds of commenters to argue back and forth over its authenticity, especially in recent weeks.

And we'll publish it again right here.

Crackpot controversy, you say. He's been accepted as a U.S. citizen.

But here's the thing: The United States Supreme Court officially takes up the issue of whether to ponder whether Obama can become president in formal discussions today in Washington.

What? Yup! A similar case was thrown out earlier this fall, but Justice Clarence Thomas distributed the legal papers in Donofrio vs. Wells to his court colleagues for legal conference today.

Hardly anyone thinks the case has a serious chance of ...

... succeeding, given the court's distaste for hanging chads and public disfavor for its involvement in settling the Al Gore-George W. Bush presidential contest over Florida in 2000.

Similar conspiracy efforts were mounted over John McCain having been born in a U.S. naval hospital in the Panama Canal Zone, where his father was stationed. They too might well have proceeded had the Arizonan won on Nov. 4.

But just think what would happen if the court did consider blocking Obama's inauguration, with the world already having congratulated him and Obama's Cabinet half-formed, not to mention him already having resigned from the Senate. Oops.

You'll note that Sens. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have not yet taken that irreversible step. Just saying.

Our blogging colleague Frank James over at the Swamp has pulled together considerable material on the controversy:

A young Barack Obama now president-elect with a relative in Kenya his father's native country

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 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.

In one of those delicious ironies that makes life so interesting, the justice who distributed the case to his colleagues was none other than Thomas, only the second African American to sit on the high court. One presumes the justices saw some legal issue to mull.

A recent Tribune story wrote: "The most famous case questioning Obama's citizenship was filed in Pennsylvania in August on behalf of Philip J. Berg and sought to enjoin the Democratic National Committee from nominating Obama.

"The U.S. Supreme Court declined to accept the case. Earlier, a federal judge rejected it for "lack of standing" -- ruling that Berg had no legal right to sue. In cases like this, judges sometimes believe the matter is best left to political institutions, such as the Electoral College or Congress, according to legal scholar Eugene Volokh of the University of California at Los Angeles."

The remaining case with the highest profile is Donofrio vs. Wells. Because it was distributed by Justice Thomas to other justices, it gained undue importance for people unschooled in how the court works, Volokh said.

But it was. Now come the court's discussions. And presumably some decision on deciding.

James has more on this much-ignored story over here.

--Andrew Malcolm

Speaking of the Obama Cabinet and inauguration, we'll have full Ticket coverage. To get cellphone alerts on each new item, register here. RSS feeds are also available here.

Photo credit: Family via Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (304)

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Andrew, you have confused the issue. It is very simple.

1) The Donofrio case does not challenge Obama's citizenship or the COLB you display. Donofrio accepts that Obama is a US Citizen but, because Obama's own admission of dual citizenship at birth, he is not a Natural Born Citizen as required by the US Constitution.

2) The challenge to McCain's eligibility as a Natural Born Citizen has not gone away as you state. Donofrio's case claims both McCain and Obama are ineligible.

Great story. More people are watching this than you think. That darn truth is a tricky thing, it can be delayed but never suppressed indefinetly. The Supreme Court needs to make a decision on this now and draw a line in the stand and start taking our country back and follow the Constitution !!! They will lose all creditability otherwise.

Are you guys blind? You post a picture of the certificate clearly stating he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. However in this article you state he was born in Kenya. Which is it already? Don't try to cover up the facts. Tell the truth!

What this article and many people fail to acknowledge is that the president hasn't even been elected yet. The Electoral College votes on the 15th.

Much-ignored? Not ignored enough. Hawaii says the certificate is genuine. What more do you nutjobs want?

Thank you for covering this story. There has been a media blackout on this for weeks now. The court should at least offer hear the case presented. Obama could diffuse this issue instantly by producing a valid original birth certificate - not the COLB which can be obtained by any foreign born immigrant to the US. We'll see....

Here's a question (actually pertinent to a family I know):

If someone is born outside the U.S. and one of his parents is a U.S. citizen, isn't that person still a natural-born U.S. citizen?

Get over yourself. Stop bringing up old stories and let's get on with our lives. The election is OVER. This won't go anywhere and you know it, so why bring it up? Trying to stir more discontent?

I'm no Obama fan, but this is just as stupid. The last thing this country needs is more drama.

Just like I said to Democrats in 2000, "Get over it, Bush was elected." The same thing applies now to the Republicans. "Get over it." If the Birth Certificate is an issue, why wasn't it investigated two years ago when he announced his bid to run?

These sort of stories as 'relayed' and expounded upon as having some basis in fact are an incitment and are of a type of propaganda that might trigger a psychotic type of extreme fanatic to "Save The Nation" by some foul deed .....

If and were that to happen then the 'blood' in the streets of America would beggar the imagination of the evil right wing bigots who perpetuate this sort of folly.

Enough already all of you ... The President elect is Barack Hussein Obama ... an American citizen of better moral character and fibre than has been seen in a century.

The Constitution was created to be at the center of how our country was run. It clearly states that you must be born in the U.S. to be President. Why would any President not have to provide such credentials? I find it very sad how much the Constitution is looked over these days. A suspicious birth certificate shows up and nobody cares to clarify this issue? Crazy!

These sort of stories as 'relayed' and expounded upon as having some basis in fact are an incitment and are of a type of propaganda that might trigger a psychotic type of extreme fanatic to "Save The Nation" by some foul deed .....

If and were that to happen then the 'blood' in the streets of America would beggar the imagination of the evil right wing bigots who perpetuate this sort of folly.

Enough already all of you ... The President elect is Barack Hussein Obama ... an American citizen of better moral character and fibre than has been seen in a century.

The Supreme Court is not scheduled to decide Obama’s Citizenship, but his eligibility to hold the office of the President of the US.
The US Constitution states “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President”. Obama is not qualified to hold the office of the President of the US because he is NOT a natural born Citizen according to the Constitution. Whether he was born in Hawaii or not, his biological father was from Kenya, giving Obama dual citizenship (and loyalties) at birth, which, according to the framers of the Constitution, who didn't even consider themselves "natural born Citizens" (being born on US soil by two parents who were Both born on US soil). Obama is no doubt a US Citizen, even a born Citizen, but NOT a natural born Citizen, according to the US Constitution.
It is the Supreme Court's job to uphold the Laws of the US Constitution. No one can deny that Obama's father was not born on US soil and no one can deny that Obama is not 200+ years old (born at the time of the adoption of the Constitution). These facts alone disqualify Obama to hold the office of the President of the United States of America.
According to Title 28, Chapter I, Part 453 of the United States Code, each Supreme Court Justice takes the following oath:
"I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [TITLE] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God."
The Supreme Court is obligated, by sworn oath, to administer justice without respect to persons; and the framers of the Constitution were very clear regarding who is eligible to hold the highest office in the US. This cannot be taken lightly or ignored. If we ignore this, why follow any Constitutional Law? Think of the butterfly effect – disregard this law and eventually the whole Constitution will be ignored and anything goes in America. There is no compromising just to keep the masses happy.
If we do not abide by Constitutional Law, then how is our country, which has always been based on upholding, protecting and defending the Constitution at all cost, ever to survive?

This entire case is ludicrous and centered on some lovely ethnocentrism and xenophobia at the heart of many a right winger votes.

Let's see how tight the tin foil hat can get.

In one of those delicious ironies that makes life so interesting, the justice who distributed the case to his colleagues was none other than Thomas, only the second African American to sit on the high court. One presumes the justices saw some legal issue to mull.

- sir you should be ashamed of yourself for writing such dribble.
- You need to get on with your life, he won by popular and electorial vote.
- What does Clarence's color have to do with anything?? And why is it delecious? It can only be a delicious irony if you are a nazi or a racist.
-Since you think you have balls, why don't you pledge your allegence to one of them now. Which is it sir? Are you a nazi a racist or a plain old sore loser? Inquiring minds want to know how someone with obvious hatred is allowed to write and publish crap under the guise of journalism.

The only reason that it would come as a shock to anyone, as you say in your article, is because the media has not been covering the issure. When the media did "cover" the issure it has usually been just to ridicule those pursuing it. That is poor journalism. Does it even count as journalism? Why hasn't the media given this issue its due attention? Why haven't reporters investigated the facts? Could have made the issue disappear by proving his citizenship. Why didn't he do as McCain did and make his records public? Hasn't the media demanded that of previous candidates? For better or worse, we usually know their health records, college records, visa and military records, if applicable. Why hasn't this routine knowledge been requested of and investigated by the media? Normal reporting and investigating of the candidate doesn't seem to have taken place. Just ridicule of those wanting to know the details/facts behind this candidate. If he would be open all credibility to the issue would fade. Other than the supposedly unbiased (they seem to have connections that would biased them), has anyone seen the actually birth certificate? Why not bring relevant papers to congress or fellow senators as McCain did? why the refusal to disclose? That is the part that has me concerned. If he is secretive about this will his administration be different than the Bush admin. - will it be open to the public?

There is more to this issue then just if he was actually born in Kenya. There are unique requirements if only one parent is an American citizen. It is not enough that one parent is a an American citizen, there are also time requirements; how many years the parent lived inside the USA and how many of those years were after the age of 15.

I do not recall the details, but I think the claim is that his mother did not live inside the USA for the required number of years after the age of 15.

So, in fact it is not just a question of the location of his actual birth, but other specific requirements of the citizenship law.

This article has Barack Obama says that Barack Obama "was born in Kenya to an alien father[.]"

All internet research says that he was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan national. This fact is key, and should be checked and corrected if needed.

I think am not saying I like to dislike Obama, but at this point Obama should be honest and straight with the People who elected him, and simply show his birth certificate - orginal birth certifcate not live birth; and answer the questions about his other passport. At this juncture it it is about openess and honesty as much as it is about the constitution and law.

Looking at the certficate picture, it's pretty strange at the bottom of the certificate there is a printed date JUN - 6 2007 in reverse. Is the date shown through from the back side or a stain on the same side? Maybe it worth some frensic investigation?

The case being reviewed today by the US supreme court
Donofrio vs. Wells, has nothing to do with Obama being a citizen, or where he was born, or his birth certificate.
The case is about Article two of the US Constitution.

The main argument of the law suit alleges that since Obama was a British citizen - at birth - a fact he admits is true, then he cannot be a “natural born citizen”. The word “born” has meaning. It deals with the status of a presidential candidate “at birth”. Obama had dual nationality at birth. The status of the candidate at the time of the election is not as relevant to the provisions of the Constitution as is his status “at birth.” If one is not “born” a natural born citizen, he can never be a natural born citizen.

The case also says that Mcain is ineligible because he was not born on US soil.

US bases are not considered US territories, only embassies have that distinction.

Please get your facts straight, there is going to be enough confusion, no matter what happens.

I read an article recently, written by an attorney, who belives that if we are not able to get the courts to make a decision on this issue now, it will be done thru the criminal courts later. When Obama signs a bill into law, and someone is accused of breaking that law, their defense attorney will be able to bring this issue to bear, by contesting the validity of this law, since it was signed by an usurper.

Isn't the main difference between Donofrio v. Wells and the rest of these lawsuits that the main point of Donofio v. Wells that as the son of a British subject (Kenya still being a British colony in 1961) that regardless of being born in Honolulu or anywhere in the US, he would have duo British and American citizen and therefore that would mean he wasn't a "natural-born" citizen. The implications being that everyone who is a first-generation American (including incumbent Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal and Mitt Romney) would not constitutionally be allowed to be sworn in as President of the United States.

It seems that some are sore losers. If things don't go their way, they seem to try and find a million "reasons" why everyone else is wrong. Let it go...!!!! The people have spoken and Barack Obama is the one that the people have chosen. Let it go, accept that you are wrong.

Conspiracy nuts! I'm an independent voter, and I find this accusation completely bogus. It's such an insulting case considering my bf is half Caucasian and half Japanese, he was born in Hawaii, and his mother was born in Japan. You see this is why Republican's lost by such a huge amount, and lost the Latino vote... they demonize immigrants. We;re a nation of immigrants. Most of us have one family member that wasn't born in the US, but their children, and grandchildren were. The supreme court will reject this case, because it's ludicrous.


In most cases, one is a U.S. citizen if both of the following are true:

1. Both parents were U.S. citizens at the time of the child's birth
2. At least one parent lived in the United States prior to the child's birth.

INA 301(c) and INA 301(a)(3) state, "and one of whom has had a residence." The FAM (Foreign Affairs Manual) states "no amount of time specified."

A person's record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of his or her citizenship. He or she may also apply for a passport or a Certificate of Citizenship to have his or her citizenship recognized.

[edit] Through birth abroad to one United States citizen

For persons born on or after November 14, 1986, a person is a U.S. citizen if all of the following are true:[4]

1. One of the person's parents was a U.S. citizen when the person in question was born;
2. The citizen parent lived at least 5 years in the United States before his or her child's birth;
3. A minimum of 2 of these 5 years in the United States were after the citizen parent's 14th birthday.

Obama's mother was an American citizen before her death. -- no case.

Recall back in 1992 the rumors that Bill Clinton as a young man went to Moscow where he gave up his US citizenship. This kind of lie keeps getting recycled everytime a new Democrat gets elected President.

No one doubts that Obama's mother was a US citizen. So regardless of where he was born, BO is also a US citizen.

Add to that the fact that Mr. Obama has a US passport. These aren't handed out. You have to produce documentation to qualify for a passport which becomes proof of your citizenship.

You'd think those making this lawsuit would have something more productive to do.

And you would provide a respectable forum to add validity to the nonsense why? Oh yeah, you used to work for Laura Bush. I get it.

I was wondering if 8 years ago you suggested there might be any veracity to allegations about George W. Bush's National Guard "record?" I am thinking... ya didn't., the State of Hawa'ii, the Chicago Tribune and countless others have debunked this tin foil hat wearing craziness, but here you go - like a good little GOP parrot -- extending credence to this lunacy.

By the way, The justices could have decided to look at the case for a number of reasons unrelated to the merits of the charge. For instance, they could be trying to decide if citizens do have the right to sue for cause, which the lower courts said they did not.

Wow. The ignorance over this is breathtaking.

You are a bit late to the party. Paying attention to the facts relating to this issue is not difficult, but does take some time. I suggest you take the time to get up to speed.
Need motivation to do some research? Obama has spent close to a Million bucks defending the disclosure of ALL his pertinent documents. ASK YOURSELF WHY? Then start doing some research. Your blinders will slowly dissolve and a clear picture of massive deceit will unfold before your eyes. This fight to save the constitution and this great country is just getting started. Do you care? If you do, start being a journalist.

My question is why are his school records still sealed? what information is hiding there? What box was checked in responce to U.S. Citizen? Yes? No? If no then Obama never was a u.s. citizen. Could we have been hoodwinked? I am disappointed in the Media for not asking these questions. Seems they are all under some hypnotic spell.

Give me a break. If this really did have any credibility it would have been a major issue warranting an investigation before he even made it to the democratic nomination. Why has it not been front page news? I mean is this the best you can do to stop this man from taking the oath on the 20th of January.

At this point it's not about getting McCain into office, that would be a very slim possibility if any. It's about the constitution. Who is eligible. McCain's citizenship was challenged in 2000 and he promptly provided more than adequate proof that he was a natural born citizen. Obama has not and is actively avoiding this issue.
Now I'm no lawyer, but according to the 1977 case U.S. v. Prudden,

"Silence can only be equated with fraud when there is a legal and moral duty to speak or when an inquiry left unanswered would be intentionally misleading," the ruling reads. "We cannot condone this shocking conduct ... If that is the case we hope our message is clear. This sort of deception will not be tolerated and if this is routine it should be corrected immediately.""

I think this was in a district court, but SCOTUS cited it in other cases, and thus backs this theory.

If Barack Obama is a US Citizen why not produce the original birth certificate?, I heard some one mention "because it was a private matter". I Obaman, or whoever said that serious?

Produce the dam certificate, get it over with, and let's move on and take care of the important stuff.

This is a horribly inaccurate piece and fails to mention that Donofrio's case is NOT about the birth certificate but rather Obama, McCain and Calero's eligibility to be on the NJ ballot. Donofrio claims all three fail to meet the "Natural Born Citizen" requirement. Please do more research and print a correction.

Being a Constitutionalist, I may disagree with Obama's political philosophy but the people have spoken and so be it. What I do disagree with however, is the possibility that Obama may not be legally eligible to hold office. The constitution requires the president to be a natural born citizen and considering Obama's known heritage, irrefutable proof of his citizenship has yet to be provided. For everyone's sake, this needs to be settled once and for all.

Stupidity and racism hit a new low! If people thought we had a Constitutional crisis under Nixon, wait until they see what happens if the election is stayed. The case of Donofrio vs. Wells is a direct attack on the Constitution. If it succeeds in staying the election, even temporarily, the US desire to be viewed as a bastion of justice and fair play will be severely damaged in the world and the overwhelming majority of people who voted for Obama will be disenfranchised. Why don't the "losers" just get over it: Obama won by the second highest majority in history and is already showing the characteristics of a great leader. Let him lead!

They won't stay the inaguration. I'll eat my hat if they do, but I'm pretty sure they won't.

Your "birth certificate" in the article is a "certificate of live birth" which is not an official document for proof of birth.

In all likelihood, the justices are not as stupid as those who believe that the suits have merit. They know very well that verified certification, which Obama has already shown is perfectly legitimate ID and will promptly dismiss these suits.

Somebody should have been doing their job way before he could be on the ballot. Since it is a requirement why wasn't it checked out in the first place, whoever neglected to do their job should lose theirs.

Somebody should have been doing their job way before he could be on the ballot. Since it is a requirement why wasn't it checked out in the first place, whoever neglected to do their job should lose theirs.

Just let the truth be revealed, quit stepping on the Constitution already!!! Kudos, judge Thomas for taking this seriously!

"That's because he was born in Kenya to an alien father and isn't a natural-born American as the Constitution requires."

I can't believe you asserted that nonsense as fact. You won't believe a real birth certificate you have actually seen, but you're willing to believe this unsubstantiated drivel???! There is absolutely no evidence that Obama was born overseas or ever had citizenship in another country.

It is fair for you to report on the Supreme Court case, but it is disingenuous and harmful for you to spread rumors for which there is no evidence. Where is your integrity?

This is enough to make your head spin but here's a thought.

Who becomes president if the president-elect is disqualified or deceased after the election but before the inauguration?
Doesn't the Electoral College get to choose whoever they want?

This whole birth certificate thing is the stuff of tin foil hats. With a sitting president who lied us into war and tortured people in our name, what kind of looney tune makes a stink over a legitimate, legal, copy ("prima facie evidence") of a birth certificate? Both major Honolulu newspapers carried the announcement of Obama's birth the day after he was born. To quote the Bush cultists, "You lost, get over it."

you need to do you home work... the case today that is being discussed... has nothing to do with a Birthcertificate !!!!
Leo claims that both parents of the child has to have no allegiance to any other country for the child to be natural born....
anyone can be native born… if they are born in the US… but to be president… the constitution states that you have to be natural born
the one that wrote this underlined natural born every time he wrote natural born in his note before the constitution was finished…. and in the Constitution it says "natural"...
not native

Hi Andrew! This story is just a whiff of hog wash and desperation from some idle hooligans. Enough said. On now to January 20th.

Not a bad review of the situation although it isn't just the 'birth certificate thing' but rather, in Donofrio's suit the fact that Obama is not a 'natural born citizen' as the Constituion requires. So, his birth certifacte may be legit but he still is not eligible. And why should this come about? Because most states are not vetting the nominated candidates for President as to eligibilty.

A small matter and not worth the fuss? Well, if we decide (or should I say if the US Suprmem Court decides) that it is much ado about nothing than the last fig leaf that we live under the rule of law and not men wil have been blown away.

Perhaps that is a good thing. Than every one of us can be morally justified (and legally) in acting outside that 'rule of law' that we so often are told is such a virtue that we invade much of the rest of the world to impart.

Frankly, I see the results of a blocking of Obama vis-a-vis a Clinton assumption of the preidency as a step downward. But if the Constitution is finally and irrevocably tossed overboard then all bets are off for this country.

Why does the LAT let Andrew Malcolm have a blog under its auspices?

I spent 30 minutes on the internet and was able to refute every one of these bogus accusations.

Just look at who is promoting this garbage: Alan Keyes and Clarence Thomas! What a pair of jealous losers.

Enough. Obama is working hard to attempt to repair the grievous damage wrought by Bushco. Get behind him or get out of the way.

Shame on the LAT for promulgating idiocy.

Here's the thing:

Obama's grandmother and other relatives back in Kenya, noe of them part of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy as far as anyone knows, say that he was born there and his mother took him back to the states immediately after his birth to register him as a US citizen. Because his father was Kenyan and his mother hadn't lived in the US for several years beforehand US law at the time would have declared him a naturalIZED US citizen, not a "naturall-born" US citizen. His orignal birth certificate - not the "certificate of live birth" printed years later from computer records, listed above, would most likely settle the question. Obama could ask Hawaii to release that document to the media on any normal business day ending in a "y" but for whatever reason hasn't. Until he does there's going to be one court challenge after another to his eligibility to be President, right through to the day he leaves office in 2016.

(Not one of these will be by the GOP, btw. They're all sitting on their couches eating popcorn and watching the show on TV. With 300+ Million Americans there are plenty of unaffilliated busybodies to keep the pot stirred for 4-8 years.)

If The One has any sense he'll release the orginal birth certificate to SCOTUS and put the controversy behind him. That he hasn't is puzzling. Arrogance or he really does have something to hide, you be the judge.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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