Another Lawsuit Fails to Unseat Obama

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Previously I wrote about Philip J. Berg, the lawyer who had sued to stop Obama from becoming president on the theory that Obama was not a "natural-born citizen," as the Constitution requires.  That case was dismissed for lack of standing.  See Berg v. Obama, 574 F. Supp. 2d 509 (E.D. Pa. 2008).  But a mere dismissal could not stop this legal crusade.

According to the court in Hollister v. Soetoro, decided in March, Berg found a "straw plaintiff" who agreed to file a case pursuing a different theory that Berg hoped might provide standing.  His new argument – which is either ingenious or completely stupid, depending on your point of view – is that a value could somehow be assigned to the duties of Commander-in-Chief, that value could be "deposited" with the court, and plaintiff could then seek to have the duties "distributed" by means of a suit in interpleader.

In the opinion, the sentence describing that claim ended with an exclamation point, which is generally not a good sign if the court is describing your argument.

If you've forgotten (or blessedly never knew) what "interpleader" is, it's a lawsuit where the ownership of something is disputed and someone who wants that dispute resolved can sue to have a court settle the issue.  That might sound mildly plausible here, but as the court pointed out, interpleader suits have to do with ownership of money or property, not constitutional powers.  (Plaintiff claimed he had some stake in those powers because he was a retired Air Force officer who, he said, might one day be recalled to duty and have to struggle with whether to serve under a non-eligible President.)

Calling the lawsuit "frivolous," Judge James Robertson noted that the issue of Obama's citizenship had been "raised, vetted, blogged, texted, twittered, and otherwise massaged by America's vigilant citizenry" during the campaign, which seems to suggest that the judge believes enough time has been spent on the issue at this point.

Judge Robertson wrote that "[t]his case, if it were allowed to proceed, would deserve mention in one of those books that seek to prove that the law is foolish or that America has too many lawyers with not enough to do."  The book I'm writing is not strictly about either of those topics, but close enough.  "Even in its relatively short life," he continued, "the case has excited the blogosphere [true] and the conspiracy theorists.  The right thing to do is to bring it to an early end."

And he did.

Link: Hollister v. Soetoro, No. 08-cv-2254 (D.D.C. Mar. 5, 2009)