December 8th, 2008
11:42 AM ET
5 years ago

SCOTUS rejects appeal questioning Obama's citizenship

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal that questioned Obama's eligibility to be president.
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal that questioned Obama's eligibility to be president.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Supreme Court has rejected an emergency appeal from a retired lawyer in New Jersey who questioned Barack Obama's eligibility to be president, because he had dual British-American citizenship at birth.

The justices without comment on Monday refused to intervene in the November 4 presidential election, dismissing the claims of Leo Donofrio, a resident of East Brunswick, New Jersey.

In his appeal, Donofrio claims that because Obama's father was a Kenyan-born British subject, the president-elect does meet the Constitution's requirement that the president be a "natural born citizen" of the United States. Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961. His mother was a U.S. citizen, born in the United States.

Many legal analysts questioned Donofrio's argument.

"The law has always been understood to be, if you are born here, you're a natural born citizen," said Thomas Goldstein, founder of the Scotusblog.com Web site, and a lawyer who has argued numerous cases before the high court. "And that is particularly true in this case, when you have a U.S. citizen parent like Barack Obama's mother."

In another lawsuit making its way through the courts, Philip Berg of Pennsylvania alleges the president-elect was actually born in Kenya. Berg claims Hawaii officials will not let him see Obama's original birth certificate, although the campaign posted a copy of it online this summer, following numerous blog postings over the citizenship question. That case had previously been dismissed by lower federal courts.

The appeal rejected Monday is Donofrio v. Wells (08A407).


Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (539 Responses)
  1. Dean in Florida

    Laws do not apply to Democrat politicians.

    December 8, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. Michael-Ventura,CA

    These idiots who just can't accept the fact that a bi-racial man or a Democrat won the Presidency should go get some therapy-or MOVE to a more biggoted environment.
    I find it hard to believe that anyone with any intelligence would persue such garbage.
    A lady at my church yesterday was saying how this is a very important thing- because "we just can't have baby-killers in the White House".
    No wonder we voted overwhelmingly for CHANGE!
    Januray 20th can't come soon enough!

    December 8, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. JJ12345

    Sean December 8th, 2008 12:32 pm ET

    "If you are going to claim that Obama is not a natural born citizen because you claim (without evidence) that he was born in a foreign country, then you also have to say that McCain is not a natural born citizen, since it is fact that he was born in Panama!

    This is so typical of this crowd."
    ______________________________________________________
    McCain was born on a US Naval installation, that is considered soverign US property so that argument is invalid. I do agree however that the whole citizenship thing with Obama is done.

    December 8, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  4. Not complicated

    If McCain had won, we would be questioning his citizenship status...
    ...if his citizenship status was in question.

    December 8, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  5. EW

    I'm torn with this issue. For the last 8 years all we have heard is the Democrats screeching about no transparency and the erosion of civil rights. Now we have a president-elect that was secretive and evasive throughout the campaign and continues with that practice today. We all must remember that Hawaii played fast and loose with the birth certificates for a short period after gaining statehood. If there is nothing to hide, what is the harm in letting SCOTUS take a peek at the BC? I think it would calm a lot of people down.

    The courts that are deciding that the people do not have a standing to challenge our candidates is, quite frankly, very concerning. It only takes a quick read to determine that the government is not supposed to usurp the authority of the people. The people lend their authority to government. These courts have slammed the door of freedom in the faces of the people. I fear where this kind of abuse of power will lead.

    December 8, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  6. the heart of the matter

    good lord people–does anyone think for a second that if hcr or mccain or rove or anyone else that has had 2 yrs or better to look hasnt found anything–get over it -and further lets send the bill to this jerk for all the taxpayers monies he's wasted not to mention the court's time-there are many other legitimate things to worry about!!! stop drinking the kool aid!!!

    December 8, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  7. Danny, OH

    I can't believe there are some illiterates in a developed country like America. If Kenya was a British colony, that does not make Kenyans British citizens. They could go to Britain at that time but not as Citizens.
    Ghana was a British colony back in the days and that did not make us British citizens though we could go to Britain without Visa. The moment he is born on American soil by an American citizen, he is automatically an American.
    This is just IGNORANCE

    December 8, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  8. pennsylvanian

    "Re: Jews have dual citizen ship, does that mean a Jew born in the US cannot be president?"

    Actually, we don't have dual citizenship. We're American.

    December 8, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  9. Cali-Transplant

    first I was shocked that this question was even created since the constitutional committee had to vet the candidate in the first place. Which courts in the US of A is going to dare to touch this? Which court will want to even bring forth a case to question this after millions of Americans have voted for BO? @ cattlecar – congress does NOT review the eligibility of the POTUS. Review your facts before you post nonsense. To all who question his citizenship: admitting you have a problem is the first step in drug addiction. I'll pray for you.

    December 8, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  10. Gerda Edwards

    Erik from Real PA @ 12:47 "Are tin foil hats back in fashion? "

    ------

    They've been back in style ever since 2000, when wackos insisted Bush stole the election. They gained in popularity when kooks were convinced Bush planned the 9-11 attacks. Then they became commonplace when fools accused Bush (who they otherwise think is a complete idiot) of orchastrating another stolen election.

    December 8, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  11. To Crazy Donofrio

    All I have to say is that 'CRAZY IN AMERICA' Leo Donofriobu is the crazy one.

    December 8, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. Cali-Transplant

    meant presidential committee not constitutional committee

    December 8, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  13. No More Condescending Comments from People Who Don't Know

    Enough!!! I love how all of you *know* that Obama was born in Hawaii? Really? How do you purport to know this? To data Obama hasn't provided a birth certificate from HI. All he has provided is a certifcation of live birth, which anyone can request. It is NOT a document generated/initiated by the hospital like a birth certificate is.

    Now...do I *know* he was born in Kenya? Nope, I don't, but at least I'm willing to admit it. I just wish the question could be settled once and for all. I wish the SCOTUS wouldn't puss out on us and not even examine the question which is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. If he was indeed born in Hawaii, then he ought to bring forth the proof before a court of law. It seems very simple to me.

    December 8, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  14. Stacy from Loudoun County VA

    Cattlecar, I think you should blame Bigfoot. He is hiding the "real" birth certificate in the lost offices of ACORN in the Washington State wilderness. UFOs took it there once it looked like B. Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee. And get it right, it is not Kenya, it is Krypton.

    December 8, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. Preatorian, Ft. Myers

    Is anyone suprised? What's more absurd is that that this ridiculous accusation even made it to the supreme court?

    December 8, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  16. Grok

    Well, at least the phrase ABB'er (which used to mean anybody but Bush) can be reused...

    Nutjobs.

    December 8, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  17. Jackie in Dallas

    I think it is time for this whole birth certificate crap to be dropped. The conspiracy theorists will always think that President Elect Obama is not eligible because that is what their delusions want. Somehow, I can't see the FBI, the House and the Senate, plus the Supreme Court in collusion to put an ineligible President in the White House.

    The other candidate, Senator John McCain was ACTUALLY born in a foreign country, i.e. Panama, so with the reasoning of these idiots, that would mean that he was not eligible, either. A natural born citizen is defined in this country two ways: born on U.S. soil (and this includes US territories such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam), or born of a U.S. citizen. So even should Obama have been born in Kenya (which he was NOT), being born of a U.S. citizen makes him eligible for dual-citizenship. Since he was born in Hawaii, when it was already a state in the U.S., AND of a U.S. citizen, he is a citzen two ways.

    By the way, several Presidents and candidates have faced this same issue, according to Wikipedia, including Chester Arthur (21st President), George Romney, plus several others. There are a number of Constitutional amendments that have been considered in Congress for years to clarify these issues, and also to loosen them to allow naturalized citizens (such as Governor Arnie) to run.

    December 8, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. Kevin

    Republicans get their facts from viral e-mails. They have no idea how to think for themselves, so other people, like Limbaugh, have to "splain" it to them.

    December 8, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. Logical

    All I'll do is "LOL" ...

    December 8, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  20. gl, Pittsburgh

    This is one of the reason that there will never been a white President running this country becasue they think they are the only ones for the job. They will say or do anything to take the President from Obama becasue they knew this will open the door for many more minority to run for the President of the USA. I will support they as well. I have supported voted for a white man for over 20 years and it is time for other races to run the white house. This is USA not the USA for white people only!

    December 8, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  21. Tameka

    Hawaii became a state in 1959, Mr. Barack Obama, President Elect who’s soon to be sworn in office on January 20th was born August 4 1961. He was born as a US citizen from the looks of it. I just think people are digging in the crates to try to find something they could use to overthrow his whole race to presidency. Just accept the fact that Barack Obama is the man for the job and get over it. This man is about to bring great CHANGE for many. Just do your part as a citizen and sit back and watch. Thanks

    December 8, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  22. KJL

    Their candidate didn't win so it's, "No fair!" When will these crybabies grow up? You could make similar arguments about John McCain, but if he had become the president-elect I'm sure Mr. Donofrio would have kept his lip buttoned.

    December 8, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  23. VB Lincoln Park NJ

    Norom; The stupidity I referred to was the lawsuit, not your wise, if understated comment.

    December 8, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. Abyssinian Lion

    @frank December 8th, 2008 12:55 pm ET

    Bitter much?

    December 8, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  25. Phil from Phoenix

    I actually have no comment to this article but I did catch someone's comment below, KG twin cities saying that we need to focus or put more effort in investigating 9/11 because it was a "inside job". KG what conspiracy crack house movie have you been watching. I questioned peoples intelligence on here but this is the most off the wall ignorant comment yet. Not to mention a smack in the face to our country and the lives that were lost that day.

    December 8, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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