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Justice Clarence Thomas: We're 'evading' eligibility

Posted By Drew Zahn On 04/17/2010 @ 4:13 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled


Justice Clarence Thomas

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told a House subcommittee that when it comes to determining whether a person born outside the 50 states can serve as U.S. president, the high court is “evading” the issue.

The comments came as part of Thomas’ testimony before a House appropriations panel discussing an increase in the Supreme Court’s budget earlier this week.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., actually raised the question first amid a discussion on racial diversity in the judiciary.

“I’m still waiting for the [court decision] on whether or not a Puerto Rican can run for president of the United States,” said Serrano, who was born in the island territory. “That’s another issue.”

Yet after Serrano questioned him on whether or not the land’s highest court would be well-served by a justice who had never been a judge, Thomas not only answered in the affirmative, but also hinted that Serrano would be better off seeking a seat in the Supreme Court than a chair in the Oval Office.

“I’m glad to hear that you don’t think there has to be a judge on the Court,” said Serrano, “because I’m not a judge; I’ve never been a judge.”

“And you don’t have to be born in the United States,” said Thomas, referring to the Constitution, which requires the president to be a natural-born citizen but has no such clause for a Supreme Court justice, “so you never have to answer that question.”

“Oh really?” asked Serrano. “So you haven’t answered the one about whether I can serve as president, but you answer this one?”

“We’re evading that one,” answered Thomas, referring to questions of presidential eligibility and prompting laughter in the chamber. “We’re giving you another option.”

A portion of the exchange, captured on video by C-SPAN, can be seen below:

Serrano opened the hearing by noting the jersey number 42 taped to the platform in honor of black baseball star Jackie Robinson, who 63 years ago this week broke professional baseball’s “color barrier” when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Serrano also took a moment to honor the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice, Sonia Sotomayor:

“I’d like to note before we begin this hearing that there has been a change at the Court, which has special meaning to the Court, to the American society in general, and to me personally,” Serrano said, “because Sonia Sotomayor comes from the South Bronx, from the area that I represent and the area I grew up in and her parents were born in the same island of Puerto Rico that I was born in.”

Though the hearing was specifically called to address the Court’s request for an increase in funding, the racial themes continued when Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., took Thomas and the Supreme Court in general to task for not employing more minority clerks and staff.

Thomas, in turn, praised the value of having people of diverse backgrounds, career paths and regions of the country serving in the judiciary and on Supreme Court staff.

Serrano then asked if the Supreme Court would do well to have justices that weren’t promoted from the appellate courts, but rather came from state courts or even the ranks of elected officials, laying the foundation for the later banter over Serrano as president or justice.

As WND reported, Justice Thomas had previously resurrected a case challenging Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president not based on his birthplace, but on whether Obama, a child born to a foreign national and admitting dual citizenship, would still be eligible under the Constitution’s Article 2, Section 1 “natural-born citizen” requirement.

New strategy unveiled on answering Obama’s eligibility questions. See how you can help.

Hints of division within the Supreme Court on the issue existed as far back as December 2008, as Justice David H. Souter had initially denied the case a hearing, but Justice Thomas agreed to bring it back for review. The case did not, however, obtain the required approval of four justices to move it forward to a full hearing.

So far, the Supreme Court has not yet heard any case challenging Obama’s eligibility on any grounds.

WND has reported on multiple legal challenges to Obama’s status as a “natural born citizen.” The Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, 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 Obama 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 – and payments to one of his eligibility lawyers at a cost confirmed to be at least $1.7 million – of numerous lawyers to defend against all requests for his documentation. That’s in addition to the work done by U.S. attorneys defending Obama’s eligibility, as in this case.

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.


“Where’s The Birth Certificate?” billboard helps light up the night at the Mandalay Bay resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

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?”

The campaign followed a petition that has collected more than 500,000 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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