The order and memorandum came down at approximately 6:15 p.m. on Friday. Philip Berg’s lawsuit challenging Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility to serve as president of the United States had been dismissed by the Hon. R. Barclay Surrick on grounds that the Philadelphia attorney and former Deputy Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania lacked standing.
Surrick, it seemed, was not satisfied with the nature of evidence provided by Berg to support his allegations.
Various accounts, details and ambiguities from Obama’s childhood form the basis of Plaintiff’s allegation that Obama is not a natural born citizen of the United States. To support his contention, Plaintiff cites sources as varied as the Rainbow Edition News Letter … and the television news tabloid Inside Edition. These sources and others lead Plaintiff to conclude that Obama is either a citizen of his father’s native Kenya, by birth there or through operation of U.S. law; or that Obama became a citizen of Indonesia by relinquishing his prior citizenship (American or Kenyan) when he moved there with his mother in 1967. Either way, in Plaintiff’s opinion, Obama does not have the requisite qualifications for the Presidency that the Natural Born Citizen Clause mandates. The Amended Complaint alleges that Obama has actively covered up this information and that the other named Defendants are complicit in Obama’s cover-up.
A judge’s attitude toward the factual foundation of a plaintiff’s claims is an essential factor in understanding just who indeed has standing to sue. The question running to the heart of the standing doctrine is whether or not the plaintiff indeed has a personal stake in the outcome of the otherwise justiciable matter being adjudicated. As has been discussed before many times here at America’s Right, a plaintiff wishing to have standing to sue must show (1) a particularized injury-in-fact, (2) evidence showing that that the party being sued actually caused the plaintiff’s particularized injury-in-fact, and (3) that adjudication of the matter would actually provide redress.
In this case, Judge Surrick’s attitude toward the evidence presented by Berg to support his allegations figures in heavily because, while there is a three-pronged test to standing in itself, there is no definitive test by which the court can determine whether a certain harm is enough to satisfy the first element of that three-pronged test by showing true injury-in-fact. Traditionally, it hasn’t taken much to satisfy the need for an injury-in-fact, but as the plaintiff’s claimed injury is perceived as being more remote, more creative, or more speculative, the injury-in-fact requirement becomes more difficult to satisfy.
As it were, much of Berg’s basis for injury-in-fact could be considered threatened injury–he felt that the country was at risk for “voter disenfranchisement” and that America was certainly headed for a “constitutional crisis”—and, while threatened injury can certainly be injury enough to satisfy the injury-in-fact element, such satisfaction depends upon the threat being perceived by the judge as being not too creative, speculative or remote.
When it came to Philip Berg’s personal stake in the matter at hand, Surrick compared his action with those of Fred Hollander—the man who, earlier this year, sued Sen. John McCain in New Hampshire on grounds that, born in the Panama Canal Zone, he was not a natural born citizen—and held that Berg’s stake “is no greater and his status no more differentiated than that of millions of other voters.” The harm cited by Berg, Surrick wrote, “is too vague and its effects too attenuated to confer standing on any and all voters.”
So, who does have standing? According to the Hon. R. Barclay Surrick, that’s completely up to Congress to decide.
If, through the political process, Congress determines that citizens, voters, or party members should police the Constitution’s eligibility requirements for the Presidency, then it is free to pass laws conferring standing on individuals like Plaintiff. Until that time, voters do not have standing to bring the sort of challenge that Plaintiff attempts to bring in the Amended Complaint.
Judge the 34-page memorandum. In one such instance, Surrick noted that Berg had misinterpreted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in asking the court to permit him to amend his complaint. The first amended complaint was deemed admitted by Judge Surrick on grounds that, under FRCP 15(a), a party can amend once so long as it’s done before being served with a responsive pleading and that [just as I had not-so-confidently suggested] the motion to dismiss filed on Sept. 24 by Obama and the DNC was not a responsive pleading. Because Berg perceived the motion to dismiss as a responsive pleading and was waiting on the court to grant or deny the motion for leave to amend, he did not serve the additional defendants added in the amended complaint. This, too, was noted by Surrick.
Berg’s attempts to distinguish his own case from Hollander were deemed by Surrick to be “[h]is most reasonable arguments,” but his arguments citing statutory authority were said by the judge to be a venture “into the unreasonable” and were “frivolous and not worthy of discussion.” All in all, the judge wrote, it was the satisfaction of the injury-in-fact requirement which was the problem. Berg’s harm was simply too intangible.
…regardless of questions of causation, the grievance remains too generalized to establish the existence of an injury in fact. To reiterate: a candidate’s ineligibility under the Natural Born Citizen Clause does not result in an injury in fact to voters. By extension, the theoretical constitutional harm experienced by voters does not change as the candidacy of an allegedly ineligible candidate progresses from the primaries to the general election.
Intangible or not, Berg said, we have a case where “an American citizen is asking questions of a presidential candidate’s eligibility to even hold that office in the first place, and the candidate is ducking and dodging questions through legal procedure.”
In fact, the motion to dismiss and motion for protective order filed by Barack Obama and the DNC were not only proper but also an expected maneuver by the defense attorneys. The very idea behind such motions is to foster the adjudication of the matter with minimal damage to the named defendants, and both are measures used more often than not. Still, Berg believes there is more to it.
“While the procedural evasions may be proper,” Berg said, “it only makes me believe more that we were correct in the first place, that Obama does not have the documentation we’ve requested.”
While the evidence presented by Berg was largely circumstantial, the attorney says that he is learning more about this narrative–and about the Democratic Party nominee for president–with each passing day. For example, regardless of whether it could be attached to the proceeding as it goes through the appellate process, Berg said, he is in possession of a native-language audiotape of Sarah Obama, Barack Obama’s paternal grandmother, stating on the day of the last presidential debate that her famous grandson was indeed born in Kenya, and that she was present in the hospital for his birth.
“The tape is in the native language there,” Berg said. “I will release it as soon as translation is confirmed by affidavit, and we are waiting on affidavits from contacts over here and in Kenya.”
Berg, nonetheless, is disappointed by Surrick’s decision and will issue a press release today detailing his plans to appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the United States Supreme Court.
“This is a question of who has standing to stand up for our Constitution,” Berg said. “If I don’t have standing, if you don’t have standing, if your neighbor doesn’t have standing to ask whether or not the likely next president of the United States–the most powerful man in the entire world–is eligible to be in that office in the first place, then who does?”
For a full-text copy of the order and memorandum, click HERE.