Donofrio claims more Internet scrubbing

Sometimes attorney Leo C. Donofrio, best known for his crazy ideas on presidential eligibility (ideas that have been very soothing to the birthers, along with fake birth certificates, doctored audio tapes and crank image analysts), for his unsuccessful lawsuit (Donofrio v Wells)  trying to get Barack Obama taken off the 2008 ballot in New Jersey, and for his smears against President Chester A. Arthur, has made a new claim about a major legal information website,, claiming it selectively removed information from citations of the case of Minor v. Happersett (1892) to hide it’s [nonexistent] relevance to Barack Obama’s presidential eligibility.

Donofrio says that the Minor case is binding precedent on questions of citizenship (which it is may well be in that it declared that women can be citizens) but also that the Minor decision indicates that Barack Obama is not eligible to be President, which no competent reader of the case would conclude1. One would not think that any attorney would make such a mistake, leading me to speculate that Donofrio is playing a game to see how many millions of Americans he can prove himself smarter than by fooling them. (I am dismissing any speculation that Mr. Donofrio is actually suffering from paranoid-style thinking or is a paid political operative.)

What Donofrio claims is that Justia is removing named citations of Minor in other cases involving citizenship, but leaving them alone in cases of voting rights. He uses the Internet Way Back Machine to show Justia citations of Minor listed by name in Boyd v. Nebraska ex Rel. Thayer, 143 U.S. 135 (1892), but only by case number in the current version.

Well if Justia “scrubbed” it, then they also “unscrubbed” because the case name is there as of right now. (I noted this on Donofrio’s blog and am waiting to see if he allows my comment to appear.)

Here’s what Justia looks like today:


The “missing” name in the case of  Pope v. Williams, 193 U.S. 621 (1904) that Donofrio complains about is also there today. However, Donofrio misleads his readers when he implies that this is a citizenship citation rather than a voting rights citation.

While the privilege to vote may not be abridged by a state on account of race, color and previous condition of servitude, the privilege is not given by the federal Constitution or by any of its amendments, nor is it a privilege springing from citizenship of the United States. Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162.

So I don’t know why, assuming Donofrio’s screen shots are genuine, that the name of Minor v. Happersett was temporarily missing from the Justia site for a couple of cases. Justia is an important Internet destination for the text of Supreme Court decisions, but hardly the only one, and no serious researcher is going to use the Internet2, and anyway Donofrio’s crank theories are certainly not worth somebody tinkering with a Supreme Court citation. Did Donofrio ask Justia for an explanation? Apparently not.

Needless to say, some of the birthers are going ape over this. It gives them an excuse to evade the problem that no case supports their theories – the evidence used to be there, but it must have been scrubbed3 – and it feeds their paranoia of an all-controlling Obama administration whose power has no limits.

Learn more:

1The opinion in Minor states:

As to this class [children born to non-citizens in the United States] there have been doubts, but never as to the first. For the purposes of this case, it is not necessary to solve these doubts. It is sufficient for everything we have now to consider that all children born of citizen parents within the jurisdiction are themselves citizens.

Nor in this case was it necessary to distinguish between citizens and natural born citizens.

2Lawyers use commercial services like Westlaw.

3Donofrio himself has been guilty of scrubbing things from his own blog, like this image of the Supreme Court he published after they refused to hear his case.

Scrubbed image from Donofrio’s web site

This is not the first “scrubbing” claim from Donofrio either. He previously made one against the Michigan Law review against a well-documented clarification made by Lawrence Solon.

About Dr. Conspiracy

I'm not a real doctor, but I have a master's degree.
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9 Responses to Donofrio claims more Internet scrubbing

  1. aarrgghh says:

    time to check your law books for missing pages — teh usurper’s goon are everywhere!

  2. Phil Cave says:

    While Justia and some other sites are useful, lawyers do not rely on those publications when filing motions, briefs, or arguing issues. There are any number of online research tools available to lawyers (primarily Westlaw and LEXIS [which you have to pay]) from which to cite. The courts use Westlaw or LEXIS, and sadly the military has gone to Westlaw from LEXIS). But even then the cite is to the hard-cover “record.” Using some “errors” or potential errors found on a commercial site like Justia to make a substantive legal argument, is, IMHO, bad lawyering. There are thousands of law libraries around the country which the books (in law schools, with bar associations, at the courthouses, and sometimes in the larger public libraries). So arguments based on Justia are specious, and more political than solid legal research. But, I am speaking to the choir, sorry.

  3. Paul Pieniezny says:

    There is more. In 1935, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings came to the US to interrogate David Eisenhower on the theft of the Just Judges, one of the panels of the Ghent Altarpiece, knowing full well that just before the war Ike had hidden the birth certicates of several US Huguenot politicians (including of course, the one of Harry Sergey Truman) – birth certificates used by these politicians to obtain French nationality and stolen from the French ministry of foreign affairs by Mata Hari with the help of Jean Jaures (who would later be killed to assure his silence)

    After using the Tardis to go back to 1897 to talk to Supreme Justice Fuller about whether people like Eisenhower should be considered natural born citizens, Poirot and Hastings visited Eisenhower once more to bring him the bad news that Fuller did not agree. To their utter surprize, Ike was no longer interested and 100% sure he was eligible.

    And Hercule Poirot could not help but notice that the copy of Vattel which was so prominently placed on Ike’s book shelf the day before, had disappeared and been replaced by a copy of … Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England”. Talking about scrubbing.

    Actually, this bit of nonsense led me to look a bit closer at Fuller’s dissent again and some of his sources. Something funny there: he favourably mentions page 7 of Sir Alexander J.E. Cockburn’s “Nationality” but strangely omits to mention page 12 “The law of the United States of America agrees with our own.” and in fact uses page 7 as a stepping stone to argue something completely different. Would Fuller qualfy as the first Birfer in history?
    (you can read Cockburn here:

  4. Tarrant says:

    Frankly I see Donofrio as a charlatan in his Minor argument. Sure, it does say that Minor is ancitizen and brings up the two citizen parents, but quite clearly says that the definition may be larger than that but it isn’t germane to the case. Donofrio makes the argument I see many birther make these days – that once one has the “restrictive” definition, it holds, and no further definition is required or even allowed – despite the case stating that others may exist.

    It’s like saying that once everyone agrees that a shape with three sides and three equal angles is indeed ad most definitely a triangle, nothing else with three sides is allowed to be included as a triangle.

    I say he’s a charlatan not because he’s misrepresenting the argument in Minor, but because it is hard for me to believe that he can read Minor and Wong Kim Ark (especially the lower count ruling and the dissent) and numerous other cases and ignore those passages that to me make it clear they were NOT being restrictive. Some birthers just aren’t train in law in such a way as to really understand, but I dot believe that about Donofrio – I believe he willfully ignores and misrepresents the parts of the cases that would otherwise be inconvenient to his argument.

  5. Sean says:

    What do we call that? Oh yes. Projection.

  6. Sef says:

    I do not know what technology Justia uses, but very few websites are static displays. They use server-side programs like servlets to retrieve, build and display web pages based on user requests. Requests from different people can result in very different page displays. The client-side browser and its settings can also dramatically effect results. So I wouldn’t try to over-analyze this.

  7. Ellen1 says:

    Lucas D. Smith, who claims to have gotten an “Obama birth certificate” in Kenya, has never shown proof that he ever went to Kenya. Several times when he posted his claims on this site, he was challenged to post a copy of his passport with the stamped page showing the Kenya stamp, but he ignored the request.

    Smith, if you are reading this, and most likely you are because your pattern has been to return to the sites where you post, why haven’t you shown proof that you visited Kenya when you claimed that you did>

  8. misha says:

    “Erstwhile attorney Leo C. Donofrio”

    Soon he’s going to be an erstwhile poker player.

  9. brygenon says:

    In the article, Dr. C wrote: “One would not think that any attorney would make such a mistake, leading me to speculate that Donofrio is playing a game to see how many millions of Americans he can prove himself smarter than by fooling them.”

    Leo Donfrio is well capable of fooling himself with his own sophistry, as demonstrated by his self-administered fleecing in his latest arguably-birther-related lawsuit, the matter of Old Carco LLC. Leo conceive one of his intricate theories, concluding he could revive a dead claim in a bankruptcy case, after the time to appeal had already expired, then somehow prevail and throw in a writ of quo warranto to challenge Obama.

    Donofrio partnered with fellow birther-attorney Steven Pidgeon, and without any notable experience with bankruptcy, Donofrio and Pidgeon (D&P) offered a deal that the clients accepted. They petitioned the Bankruptcy Court, arguing “fraud upon the court”. Denied. They went up to the District Court, arguing that the Court had committed fraud upon the court. Dismissed. They appealed to the Circuit Court. Dismissal affirmed, with a note, “As to the merits of Appellants’ claims, they are utterly frivolous.”

    Along the way, it turned out that Donofrio and Pidgeon’s clients were pursuing their interests on other fronts, so D&P petitioned to withdraw from representing their clients. Their clients opposed the motion to withdraw, saying they were happy with D&P’s representation. What deal did Donofrio and Pidgeon offer, so that their clients remained happy with their losing results? Don’t know; the retainer agreement is undisclosed. We do know that D&P wanted out, but the clients held D&P to it.

    After the verdict of “utterly frivolous” from the Circuit Court, the winning opposition petitioned for costs. D&P’s clients had their real legal counsel argue that any award for costs should be charged to the law firm of D&P rather than to the actual plaintiffs. D&P also responded, arguing against any such award. The Circuit Court granted costs to be charged to D&P, and remanded the case back down to the District Court to for assessment. The winners recently petitioned the District Court for attorney’s fees in the amount of $128,762.50. How much they’re actually collect remains to be seen.

    I disagree with Dr. C’s speculation that Donofrio is trying to fool other people with theories he knows to be wrong. Old Carco LLC is illustrative in that there’s no question who was fooled by Donofrio’s frivolous arguments. He did not fool the courts, nor his opponents, nor even his clients. The clients, it turned out, had competent legal counsel; it just wasn’t D&P.

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