This is the first of two articles I’m writing about this morning’s eligibility hearing in Atlanta. In this one, I’ll share my impressions and analysis of what happened. The second article will be about a few face-to-face discussions I had.
What just happened here?
In a nutshell, three administrative challenges were presented to a Georgia administrative law judge, Michael Malihi. The challengers claim that Barack Obama is ineligible to serve as President of the United States. Barack Obama, the named defendant, did not show up and his counsel did not show up. The whole business took about 2 hours and at the end the judge said simply: “this concludes the hearing.”
I would estimate around 100 people were in the courtroom and I was told that about 25 more were in an overflow room where they could hear and view the proceedings. There was a lot of press coverage, at least 10 and probably more with video cameras rolling. What you could not see was the large number of uniformed security guards at the hearing (maybe 8) and what appeared to be at least 4 other non-uniformed official-looking persons.
The first plaintiff was Mr. Weldon represented by Mr. Irion. Testimony was pretty simple. It was established that the plaintiff was a registered voter in Georgia, and that President Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., was not a US citizen. The plaintiff offered in evidence the White House PDF of the President’s long form birth certificate for the purpose of identifying who the President’s father was and that the father was born in Kenya. After the quick testimony, Mr. Irion made his closing argument, which said in essence that the Supreme Court in Minor v. Happersett established a precedent defining natural born citizen (a qualification of a US President) to be someone born in the country of citizen parents. He then said that whatever the Supreme Court might have said to the contrary later in US v. Wong was dicta. I considered his remarks as more of a popular argument than a legal one.
I give Mr. Irion points for being succinct; however, I don’t think the judge appreciated a lawyer explaining to him the difference between holding and dicta. Mr. Irion’s visual aids were abysmally bad after the first Venn diagram. It was all huge blocks of dense text that the judge couldn’t see because they were pointed away from him and the spectators couldn’t see because it was too small.
The second plaintiff, represented by Mr. Hatfield, presented an even shorter case. As in the first it was established that the plaintiff was a Georgia voter and the Barack Obama’s father was not a US Citizen. That was all. No argument was made.
At that point, the court took a break and all the previous plaintiffs quickly exited the courtroom. One may legitimately ask why they had no interest in the rest of the hearing.
Next up, Orly Taitz. It was pretty bad. Orly opened up by turning her back on the judge and addressing the spectators, only to be immediately stopped by the judge, who told her to address the court. (She didn’t make that mistake again.) Then she tried to play the video (without any introduction) of a TV clip from Inside Edition where the Indonesian school registration in the name “Barry Soetoro” first appeared. The judge interrupted and said “I don’t need to see the video.” (You couldn’t see it on the live feed, but right before that a man who looked very much like Obiwan Kenobi waved his hand and said, “You don’t need to see the video.”)
It appeared that she had not prepared her witnesses. In fact after calling each witness, none of them were asked to state their name. Some interrupted Orly to state their name before answering the first question. At one point she was actually arguing with Mr. Vogt, the scanner expert trying to get him to say that one particular aspect of the long form birth certificate PDF was irregular, with Vogt repeating, “No, that’s normal.” She kept having trouble with her projected documents, saying “scroll up, up, up, up, no, down, down, down.”
The judge stopped Orly at various times to tell her to present her evidence and THEN her closing argument and one point he asked her whether she was testifying or arguing, at which time Orly ran up to the witness chair, raised her hand and got sworn in, and continued her talk. After a couple of minutes the obviously exasperated judge told her to get on with her closing argument and she left the witness chair.
It is clear that Orly Taitz is an utterly incompetent attorney who did not do even minimal preparation for this hearing.
What did Orly actually present?
Unless you were already well-informed on the topic, you probably couldn’t make much sense out of Orly’s case given the disconnected and confusing presentation. But what she presented with her witnesses Susan Daniels, Linda Jordan, Douglas Vogt, Christopher Strunk, John Sampson (former INS agent), Felicito Papa (IT professional) came down to:
- Obama’s security-security number is a particular number she cited.
- That social-security number is associated with Connecticut
- That social-security number is not matched on an SSA system as of 2011.
- The long form birth certificate PDF released by the White House has layers that her witnesses find suspicious.
- It looks suspicious that some information from Lolo Soetoro’s immigration file is redacted.
In what I find a great irony, while Obama’s attorney Jablonski did not appear, and he did not submit the President’s birth certificate, plaintiffs’ counsel did. A birth certificate showing Barack Obama born in Hawaii was submitted into evidence. Not only that, an Indonesian school registration form that says Barack Obama was born in Hawaii was submitted into evidence.
What didn’t happen.
The big thing that didn’t happen was an appearance by Barack Obama or his attorney, hence the title of this article, Farrar v. ______.
At no point at the proceeding did any plaintiff assert that Barack Obama was born outside the United States. Orly painted Obama as having a fraudulent social-security number, and hiding records. She said his birth certificate was a phony. She argued that original documents should be gotten and that an investigation should ensue, but she never once suggested that Obama was born anywhere but Hawaii. No fake Kenyan birth certificate saw the light of day. Several pieces of evidence presented by the plaintiffs provided documentation that Obama was born in Hawaii.
Another thing that didn’t happen was objections. The judge only once stopped Orly Taitz on a question of relevance. Otherwise the birthers had their way to introduce things without foundation or relevance and to present conclusions without proper foundation or expertise. If Michael Jablonski, Obama’s attorney, had showed up, he would have been obliged to raise an objection, literally every two minutes. If Jablonski had been there, the thing would have run all day.
The crowd was utterly respectful of the proceeding and there were no outbursts or applause at any point. Even Orly Taitz was respectful to the judge and did not utter her trademark, “let me feeeneesh!”
Anyone who claims that judge Michael Malihi is a “closet birther” will find no support for that contention in today’s hearing. What we all saw was someone who wanted to speed the hearing along. He offered no support and no help to plaintiffs’ counsel. At best he tolerated them and to this observer just wanted to get it over with.
I thought I while watching the hearing: “this is a bad birther web site.” It bothered me that there was no one there to object to obvious misstatements and unwarranted conclusions on the part of the witnesses. It bothers me that the video record of the hearing will be one-sided. It bothers me that a layman watching the video will have a hard time understanding why the judge rules against the plaintiffs should that happen because they only see one side.
After the hearing, Orly was hamming it up before the TV cameras.
A considerable number of comments to this article relate to the issue of “default judgment.” Judge Malihi wrote this in his decision released later:
Ordinarily, the Court would enter a default order against a party that fails to participate in any stage of a proceeding. Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 616-1-2-.30(1) and (5). Nonetheless, despite the Defendant’s failure to appear, Plaintiffs asked this Court to decide the case on the merits of their arguments and evidence. The Court granted Plaintiffs’ request.