According to Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party upon whom requests for admissions have been served must respond, within 30 days, or else the matters in the requests will be automatically deemed conclusively admitted for purposes of the pending action.
On September 15, as part of his federal lawsuit contending that the Illinois senator is ineligible, pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, to serve as president of the United States, Philadelphia attorney Philip Berg served Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee with just such a request. Soon thereafter, on October 6, Barack Obama and the DNC acknowledged service in their motion for protective order, filed in an attempt to persuade the court to stay discovery. The Federal Rules require that a response to a request for admissions be served within the 30-day time limit, and Barack Obama and the DNC have not done so.
Therefore, this morning, amidst news reports that Barack Obama will be suspending his campaign for a few days so he can fly to Hawaii to visit his grandmother, who has suddenly fallen ill, Philip Berg will file two motions in district court in Philadelphia:
- A motion requesting an immediate order deeming his request for admissions served upon Barack Obama and the DNC on September 15 admitted by default, and
- A motion requesting an expedited ruling and/or hearing on Berg’s motion deeming the request for admissions served upon Obama and the DNC admitted.
Berg contends that the failure to respond and serve the response within the time limit is “damning,” and made two appearances overnight on Rollye James’ talk radio program, the second one coming shortly after midnight, during which he disclosed the meat of today’s filings and the legal and political ramifications of the defendants’ failure to respond.
“They did not file answers or objections or anything else to the request for admissions we served upon them on September 15,” Berg said to me shortly before midnight, noting that Obama and the DNC did in fact acknowledge service of the admission in their motion for protective order. “They knew the admissions were due. They knew they must object or answer specifically in 30 days. Here, they did nothing.”
Typically, requests can be used to ascertain three types of information: (1) the veracity of facts, (2) the authenticity of documents, or (3) the “application of law to fact.” Pretty much anything not privileged is fair game, and while the idea behind such a request is to obtain information, requests for admissions of facts and of the genuine nature of documents are generally not designed as a part of discovery, per se, but rather more of a mechanism used to whittle down proof later in the proceedings.
Unless permitted by the court or allowed pursuant to a written agreement between the parties, the party served with the request must serve a response within 30 days. How serious is a failure to respond? This, from PreTrial, by Thomas A. Mauet:
The automatic provision of Rule 36 makes it a formidable weapon because inertia or inattentiveness can have an automatic, and usually devastating, consequence. Hence, there is one cardinal rule for practice under this provision: Make sure you respond and serve the response within the 30-day period.
Given the “usually devastating” consequence of failure to respond in time to a request for admissions such as those served upon Obama and the DNC on September 15, just what were some of the admissions that Berg asserts Barack Obama and the DNC have, at least procedurally, admitted to?
- Admit you were born in Kenya.
- Admit you are a Kenya “natural born” citizen.
- Admit your foreign birth was registered in the State of Hawaii.
- Admit your father, Barrack Hussein Obama, Sr., admitted Paternity of you.
- Admit your mother gave birth to you in Mombosa, Kenya.
- Admit your mother’s maiden name is Stanley Ann Dunham a/k/a Ann Dunham.
- Admit the COLB [Certification of Live Birth] posted on the website “Fightthesmears.com” is a forgery.
- Admit you were adopted by a Foreign Citizen.
- Admit you were adopted by Lolo Soetoro, M.A. a citizen of Indonesia.
- Admit you were not born in Hawaii.
- Admit you are a citizen of Indonesia.
- Admit you never took the “Oath of Allegiance” to regain your U.S. Citizenship status.
- Admit you are not a “natural born” United States citizen.
- Admit your senior campaign staff is aware you are not a “natural born” United States Citizen.
- Admit the United States Constitution does not allow for a Person to hold the office of President of the United States unless that person is a “natural born” United States citizen.
- Admit you are ineligible pursuant to the United States Constitution to serve as President and/or Vice President of the United States.
This is, however, by no means a slam dunk for Philip Berg, as there are several options for Barack Obama and the DNC at this point. The first, and most obvious, is the seemingly watertight argument that pursuant to Rule 26(f), a request for admission may only be served after the conference for the purpose of planning discovery detailed under that rule, and therefore the 30-day time limit on Berg’s request has not yet begun. Here, though, Berg could feasibly argue either that the request for admissions is not a true discovery mechanism and is actually meant to streamline the future need for discovery, or that the defendants’ acknowledged service of the request in their October 6 motion for protective order and failed, at that time, to specifically object or answer. The second option for the defense, somewhat related to the first, is that the motion for protective order rendered the requests null and void, but Berg may argue that the protective order effectively staying discovery was never issued by the court. Yet another option, still easily foreseen, is that Obama and the DNC could file a motion to withdraw admissions which have been deemed admitted. In order to file a motion to withdraw admissions deemed admitted by default, a party must show (1) “good cause” regarding why there was no response and (2) that such a motion to withdraw would not cause undue prejudice to the plaintiff. Here, Berg could contend that Obama and the DNC failed to meet those standards, that they cannot show “good cause” for failing to answer or object, and that withdrawing the admissions would cause undue prejudice.
Still, for Berg, the issue is clear. He simply wanted answers or objections, he said, and instead received nothing. Rule 36, according to Berg, is fairly cut-and-dry.
“It all comes down to the fact that there’s nothing from the other side,” Berg said. “The admissions are there. By not filing the answers or objections, the defense has admitted everything. He admits he was born in Kenya. He admits he was adopted in Indonesia. He admits that the documentation posted online is a phony. And he admits that he is constitutionally ineligible to serve as president of the United States.”
For more information and background on Philip Berg’s civil action against Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee, look to the right-hand side of the America’s Right page for the list of related articles, updates and commentaries under the “BERG v. OBAMA @ AMERICA’S RIGHT” heading.