Attorney Larry Klayman filed a new case in Florida this past Tuesday on behalf of Michael Voeltz, dedicated advocate of various conspiracy and crackpot legal theories about Barack Obama. Judge Lewis already threw out one case from Voeltz/Klayman, saying specifically:
Plaintiff suggests the possibility of a declaratory judgment claim, but I don’t see how Plaintiff, as an individual voter, would have standing to seek declaratory relief. In short, I am unable to conceive of any other legal theory upon which the Plaintiff could proceed at this time relative to the relief sought.
Nevertheless, a claim for declaratory judgment is exactly what this new lawsuit asks for. In a declaratory judgment claim, a plaintiff asks for the court to declare the plaintiff has a right to something, or that someone else has an obligation. It’s done in anticipation of some future conflict. The judgment declares equitable or legal relationships between the parties (or the lack thereof).
In this case, Voeltz seeks two declarations:
- Obama is not eligible
- The Florida Secretary of State has a duty to “determine” the eligibility of Barack Obama (not any other candidate present or future) before he is placed on the ballot.
While on the surface “Obama is not eligible” sounds like a declaration, I do not think this is the kind of declaration that’s intended by the Statute. It’s rather more like “the earth is round” or “birthers should shut up.” There is no equitable or legal relationship between Michael Voeltz and Barack Obama, nor between him and Secretary of State Detzner.
In the complaint Voeltz isn’t asserting any rights (unlike the Collette case where Collette does claim that he has a right not to be governed by an ineligible President). On the other hand, it is clear that the second relief sought is a declaration of an obligation on the part of the Secretary of State of Florida to “determine” the eligibility of Barack Obama to be on the general election ballot.
In both instances, I fail to see how Voeltz has standing to bring the suit. The authority for declaratory judgments in Florida is in Chapter 86 of the Florida code. Specifically, those who can plead for declaratory judgments are:
86.021 Power to construe.–Any person claiming to be interested or who may be in doubt about his or her rights under a deed, will, contract, or other article, memorandum, or instrument in writing or whose rights, status, or other equitable or legal relations are affected by a statute, or any regulation made under statutory authority, or by municipal ordinance, contract, deed, will, franchise, or other article, memorandum, or instrument in writing may have determined any question of construction or validity arising under such statute, regulation, municipal ordinance, contract, deed, will, franchise, or other article, memorandum, or instrument in writing, or any part thereof, and obtain a declaration of rights, status, or other equitable or legal relations thereunder.
According to the statute, the previous enumeration is not exhaustive, nevertheless, I fail to see how the statute fits this case. Judge Lewis has already said that Mr. Voeltz as a voter, and that is the capacity in which he brings the new complaint, does not have the specific interest that would grant him standing to bring a complaint for declaratory judgment. We already know in advance that the suit will be dismissed. However, this case is more about political theater than about the law, and the new suit is primarily a platform for a future appeal (which is more political theater). Judge Lewis said that he could not conceive of any legal theory under which Voeltz could bring the suit and in fact attorney Klayman doesn’t seem to be able to conceive of one either. The brief is remarkably devoid of any legal argument whatever; it’s just a recitation of the usual birther conspiracy theories.
There are some other odd things in the complaint; for example, the Defendant is referred to as “Barack Hussein Obama, Florida Democratic Party nominee for President to the 2012 Democratic National Convention,” ignoring the fact that Judge Lewis already ruled that Barack Obama was not a nominee. Also in the obligations of the Secretary of State they want a declaration that Secretary of State Detzner most determine whether or not Obama is eligible to be on the primary ballot – which is strange because there was no, nor will there be any, primary election in Florida on the Democratic side. This lawsuit is totally
This article’s title is a play on a signature phrase of comedian William Bendix, “What a revoltin’ development this is!” from the 1940’s radio comedy, The Life of Riley.
- Florida Code (2005) on Declaratory Judgments
- Decision in Craig v. United States (another claim for declaratory judgment regarding the definition of “natural born citizen.”
The text of the complaint follows:
[Update: The case was dismissed.]