U.S. District Judge David Carter today issued a final schedule of deadlines for progress in the California lawsuit challenging Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president, leaving some of the president’s critics gleeful over the “confirmation” of a trial and others wondering exactly what the judge meant.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office defending Obama said the order was no more than confirmation of what the judge previously had scheduled for the calendar, but it still was conditional on the judge’s forthcoming ruling on the government’s motion to dismiss the entire case.

The ruling from Carter cited his hearing Monday on the government’s motion to dismiss, explaining, “Argument by counsel. Motion taken under submission.”

Then the judge continued, “On September 8, 2009, the court previously set tentative case management dates. The court now orders those dates be made final.”

The order listed a motion for summary judgment hearing Dec. 7 at 8:30 a.m., with a time frame to file the motion Nov. 16, and opposition required by Nov. 26.

The final pretrial conference is scheduled Jan. 11, 2010, while the jury trial is Jan. 26, 2010.

Advocates for evaluating Obama’s eligibility in court jumped on the ruling to conclude that the judge would not have made the dates final if he was going to dismiss the case.

“The implication of the court’s order finalizing the dates is obvious: you do not finalize dates unless there will be a trial,” wrote one supporter who contacted WND about the ruling. “And there would not be a trial, unless the Motion to Dismiss requested by the Defense was in whole or in part DENIED.”

Attorney Orly Taitz, who is representing several dozen of the plaintiffs in the case, was optimistic, telling WND it is reasonable to believe that a definitive trial date would preclude a positive response to the government’s motion to dismiss.

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“We’re going towards trial. There is no other way to explain it,” she told WND.

One of her assistants immediately contacted the Department of Justice, asking whether the attorneys “are willing to stipulate that … it is now time for us to begin discovery. We need to start sending out notices of deposition.”

But Tom Mrozek, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said the order specifically states the judge is considering the motion to dismiss. With the schedule, the judge appeared to want to “just memorialize” that there was a hearing.

“There was no ruling,” he told WND. “I think for anybody to say there’s a trial is way premature. The judge hasn’t decided.”

Another attorney representing a few of the plaintiffs in the case, Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation, said that was how he read the court document.

Multiple calls by WND to the judge’s clerk, asking for clarification, did not generate a response.

But Taitz agreed with the perspective of cautious optimism.

“He does not say outright that the motion to dismiss, but he says that the dates for trial are final. We might need to ask for the clarification, but from the first glance it looks like a go,” she posted on her website.

One of the plaintiffs in the case, Rev. Wiley Drake, told WND he has observed the judge’s courtroom demeanor over the years and suggested the Marine is not the type of judge to write vague rulings or orders.

As WND reported Monday, Carter listened to government lawyers argue that the lawsuit over Obama’s eligibility should be immediately dismissed but refused to grant their request, saying he would make his decision and announce it later.

The lawsuit was brought by several political candidates and party officials, including former U.S. ambassador Alan Keyes and Wiley Drake and Markham Robinson of the American Independent Party.

They are suing Obama alleging he is not eligible to be president under the U.S. Constitution’s requirement for a “natural born” citizen in the Oval Office. Forty-six of the plaintiffs are represented by Taitz, who has worked on a multitude of lawsuits over Obama’s eligibility, and two – Drake and Robinson – are represented by Kreep.

Lawyers representing Obama in the case claim “no single federal district court has the power to declare that a sitting president is not fit or qualified to occupy the office, and is, therefore, not a legitimate president.”

The attorneys have argued the election process and Constitution allow only Congress to examine the credentials of a presidential candidate, and in any event, that opportunity is long gone.

They have argued, “Plaintiffs simply are not the proper parties to challenge President Obama’s qualifications or fitness for office and this court is not the proper forum to decide this issue.”

The plaintiffs, however, have argued on behalf of their “real, tangible injuries” from Obama’s placement in the White House. If he is not eligible, “they have been denied a free and fair election.”

They have suggested the simplest resolution is to put Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other government officials under oath and question them about Obama’s birth and birth records.

They also have indicated plans to ask, if given permission by the court, for copies of Hawaiian records regarding Obama’s birth, Washington state records regarding him and his mother, his Harvard Law School records, passport records and a long list of other documents.

The plaintiffs have requested immediate access to Obama’s records, such as his original long-form birth certificate and his Occidental College records. The plaintiffs’ suspicion is that those records would undermine the president’s statements that he is a “natural born” citizen, which could disqualify him. For example, an original birth certificate could indicate it was a “delayed” filing, which could open the door for a birth location outside the United States.

Likewise, the Occidental College records could be significant if Obama attended on a program for foreign students or represented himself as a foreign student at the time.

WND has reported on dozens of 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 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.

Complicating the situation is Obama’s decision to spend sums exceeding $1 million to avoid releasing an original long-form state birth certificate that would put to rest the questions.

WND also has reported that among the documentation not yet available for Obama includes 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 475,000 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.

Your donation – from as little as $5 to as much as $1,000 – can be made online at the WND SuperStore. (Donations are not tax-deductible. Donations of amounts greater than $1,000 can be arranged by calling either 541-474-1776 or 1-800-4WND.COM. If you would prefer to mail in your contributions, they should be directed to WND, P.O. Box 1627, Medford, Oregon, 97501. Be sure to specify the purpose of the donation by writing “billboard” on the check. In addition, donations of billboard space will be accepted, as will significant contributions specifically targeted for geographic locations.)

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