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Chrysler bankruptcy lawyers raise eligibility question
Posted By Bob Unruh On 02/03/2010 @ 8:34 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Lawyers defending the government-orchestrated deal by which Chrysler was purchased by Fiat and hundreds of dealers were thrown out of the network have raised President Barack Obama’s eligibility for office as a possible issue in the dispute.
In a footnote in their latest court filing, attorneys representing the old car company at the firm of Jones Day have cited a “scheme” purportedly on the part of the lawyers for the former Chrysler dealers – the plaintiffs in the case.
“Although the debtors have no independent knowledge of these matters, the debtors have taken note of certain public statements connecting the motion to a crusade involving the movants’ counsel to challenge Barack Obama’s legitimacy as president of the United States,” the court filing states. “For example, one report has stated: Birthers are launching yet another scheme … [that] involves a legal maneuver known as ‘quo warranto,’ a prerogative writ requiring the person to whom it is directed to show what authority he has for exercising some right or power (or ‘franchise’) he claims to hold.”
Attorney Stephen Pidgeon, who along with Leo Donofrio is representing more than 70 former Chrysler dealerships put out of business by the machinations involved in granting massive quantities of taxpayer funds to Chrysler, which then was taken over by Fiat, said it’s a good sign for the case.
“This is very encouraging because they are attempting to distract the court from the law, a tactic they would not employ if they truly thought the law was on their side. … This case is getting very interesting,” he said.
“Opposing counsel have certainly lost their cool by grabbing mud and slinging it right in the court’s face,” he said. “They did this by laying the ‘birther’ card in a memo supporting their objection to our motion while our motion has absolutely nothing to do with the president. In fact, we clearly stated in that motion that we do not contend the government requested the Chrysler dealers be rejected,” he said.
“It appears that Old Chrysler’s attorneys are doing their best to distract the court from the law by raising issues which do not affect the case. … I have reminded these attorneys and the court that 789 small businesses were gutted and approximately 40,000 jobs lost as a result of the Chrysler dealers having their livelihood ripped from them,” he said.
WND reported when the case originally developed that the lawyers were challenging in U.S. bankruptcy court the government’s use of Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to bail out Chrysler.
Both Donofrio and Pidgeon previously worked on the issue of Obama’s eligibility.
The new case challenges the government’s intervention in the auto industry, specifically allocating some $8 billion-plus to Chrysler, which later was forgiven.
Pidgeon told WND the plaintiffs in the case are former Chrysler dealers who lost their businesses as part of the “restructuring” of the automobile company. They have been damaged with the loss of their businesses, and the case alleges the Obama administration, through its use of TARP money, influenced Chrysler’s outcome.
Donofrio told WND the core issue is the disbursement of TARP funds to the automaker that were intended to help banks and financial institutions. The previous Treasury secretary had indicated such expenditures were not appropriate, and, in fact, a congressional effort to authorize the expenditures failed, he said.
The team of attorneys confirmed that a “quo warranto” case is possible but it is not connected to the TARP case. Nothing has been filed to date.
Donofrio originally confirmed questions in that scenario could include a demand for details about Obama’s eligibility. Donofrio contends that since by Obama’s own admission his father never was a U.S. citizen, Obama was born a dual citizen. The framers of the Constitution, he argues, did not consider a dual citizen to be a “natural born citizen” as required for the presidency.
The burden, then, would shift to Obama and his administration officials to document their constitutional authority for their decisions and their handling of taxpayer money.
But Pidgeon originally told WND the plaintiffs in the TARP case are the former Chrysler dealers, and their interests will be paramount.
The goal is “to get them restored,” he said, and “put them back where they were before their contracts were rejected.”
“Our clients are not in this action as ‘birthers,’” he said, citing a term used for people who question Obama’s constitutional eligibility. “Our clients are here to seek redress for wrongs.”
Cases regarding the dissolution of Chrysler and its eventual transfer to Fiat are being heard by Judge Arthur Gonzalez in the federal bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York.
The dealers simply seek compensation for the value of the franchises and contracts with Chrysler. The arguments revolve around statements from Alfredo Altavilla, an executive for Fiat, who was quoted in the court’s decision as saying the nullification of the contracts was required.
However, Pidgeon and Donofrio argue that’s not supported in the evidence of the case.
Court records show the executive stated: “A restructuring needs to occur. Whether it occurs before or after the closing of the deal is not a material difference.”
The court, however, paraphrased that to say, “Altavilla also responded affirmatively to a question regarding whether a dealership network needed to be restructured for the Fiat Transaction to close…”
They argue the court order presupposed a requirement that the contracts be cancelled for the deal to close, when that was not the case, so the order must be overturned.
According to columnist Devvy Kidd, the case is “complicated” but it may provide to the dealers what has been lacking for plaintiffs in other challenges to Obama’s eligibility.
She explained a “quo warranto may be issued from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in the name of the United States against a person who within the District of Columbia usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises, a franchise conferred by the United States or a public office of the United States, civil or military.”
That means quo warranto applies not just to eligibility but to the “exercise” of authority through public office, she said.
She noted the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals already has described as “interesting and unresolved” some of the questions raised in a related case that did not involve the dealers. In that case, once again, the appellants did not have “standing.”
“The Chrysler dealers have the requisite injury – loss of their franchises – to meet the standing requirements,” she wrote.
The multiple Obama eligibility cases have cited Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, which 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.”
Some of the lawsuits question whether he was actually born in Hawaii, as he insists. If he was born out of the country, Obama’s American mother, the suits contend, was too young at the time of his birth to confer American citizenship to her son under the law at the time.
Other challenges have focused on Obama’s citizenship through his father, a Kenyan subject to the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom at the time of his birth, thus making him a dual citizen. The cases contend the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born.
Further, others question his citizenship by virtue of his attendance in Indonesian schools during his childhood and question on what passport did he travel to Pakistan three decades ago.
Adding fuel to the fire is Obama’s persistent refusal to release documents that could provide answers and the appointment – at a cost confirmed to be at least $1.7 million – of myriad lawyers to defend against all requests for his documentation. While his supporters cite an online version of a “Certification of Live Birth” from Hawaii as his birth verification, critics point out such documents actually were issued for children not born in the state.
Among documentation not yet available for Obama is his kindergarten records, Punahou school records, Occidental College records, Columbia University records, Columbia thesis, Harvard Law School records, Harvard Law Review articles, scholarly articles from the University of Chicago, passport, medical records, files from his years as an Illinois state senator, his Illinois State Bar Association records, any baptism records and his adoption records.
Because of the dearth of information about Obama’s eligibility, WND founder Joseph Farah has launched a campaign to raise contributions to post billboards asking a simple question: “Where’s the birth certificate?”
“Where’s The Birth Certificate?” billboard at the Mandalay Bay resort on the Las Vegas Strip
The campaign followed a petition that has collected more than 490,000 signatures demanding proof of his eligibility, the availability of yard signs raising the question and the production of permanent, detachable magnetic bumper stickers asking the question.
The “certification of live birth” posted online and widely touted as “Obama’s birth certificate” does not in any way prove he was born in Hawaii, since the same “short-form” document is easily obtainable for children not born in Hawaii. The true “long-form” birth certificate – which includes information such as the name of the birth hospital and attending physician – is the only document that can prove Obama was born in Hawaii, but to date he has not permitted its release for public or press scrutiny.
Oddly, though congressional hearings were held to determine whether Sen. John McCain was constitutionally eligible to be president as a “natural born citizen,” no controlling legal authority ever sought to verify Obama’s claim to a Hawaiian birth.
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