Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Philip J. Berg
A lawsuit filed by Democratic attorney Philip Berg alleging that Sen. Barack Obama is ineligible to be president was dismissed by a federal judge yesterday on grounds that Berg lacks standing to bring the lawsuit.
In a 34-page memorandum that accompanied the court order, the Hon. R. Barclay Surrick concludes that ordinary citizens can’t sue to ensure that a presidential candidate actually meets the constitutional requirements of the office.
Surrick defers to Congress, saying that the legislature could determine “that citizens, voters, or party members should police the Constitution’s eligibility requirements for the Presidency,” but that it would take new laws to grant individual citizens that ability.
“Until that time,” Surrick says, “voters do not have standing to bring the sort of challenge that Plaintiff attempts to bring.”
Berg has maintained that uncertainty about how the U.S. does enforce the requirements of presidency may result in a constitutional crisis should an ineligible candidate win the office.
“This is a question of who has standing to stand up for our Constitution,” Berg told Jeff Schreiber of America’s Right blog. “If I don’t have standing, if you don’t have standing, if your neighbor doesn’t have standing to ask whether or not the likely next president of the United States – the most powerful man in the entire world – is eligible to be in that office in the first place, then who does?”
As WND reported, Berg filed suit in U.S. District Court in August, alleging Obama is not a natural-born citizen and is thus ineligible to serve as president of the United States. Berg demanded that Obama provide documentation to the court to verify that the candidate was born in Hawaii, as Obama contends, and not in Kenya, as Berg believes.
Surrick did not rule on the birth certificate controversy, though he did express skepticism over the notion that a foreign-born Obama would have escaped the primaries without being discovered.
“Plaintiff would have us derail the democratic process by invalidating a candidate for whom millions of people voted,” Surrick states, “and who underwent excessive vetting during what was one of the most hotly contested presidential primary [sic] in living memory.”
Instead, Surrick cites Article III of the U.S. Constitution, limiting federal judicial power to handling cases and controversies in which plaintiffs have clear standing through specific, personal injury.
Berg, the judge ruled, simply didn’t have a case for a particular injury and thus, had no standing to sue.
Surrick’s ruling cites a case deemed similar, Hollander v. McCain, in which it was alleged during the primary season that since he was born in the Panama Canal Zone, John McCain is not a natural-born citizen either. The judge in the Hollander case also ruled a voter cannot sue to prevent an allegedly unconstitutional candidate.
Based in part on Hollander, Surrick concludes, “The alleged harm to voters stemming from a presidential candidate’s failure to satisfy the eligibility requirements of the Natural Born Citizen Clause is not concrete or particularized enough to constitute an injury.”
Surrick also quotes Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, which held, “The Supreme Court has consistently held that a plaintiff raising only a generally available grievance about government – claiming only harm to his and every citizen’s interest in proper application of the Constitution and laws, and seeking relief that no more directly and tangibly benefits him than it does the public at large – does not state an Article III case or controversy.”
Berg told America’s Right that even if he technically can’t hold Obama accountable to the Constitution, someone should. He plans to appeal his case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the United States Supreme Court.