“I HAVE TO RESEARCH THAT”
by Sharon Rondeau, h/t CDR Charles F. Kerchner, Jr. (Ret.)
(May 13, 2015) — On Tuesday, the Lawyers Chapter of the Phoenix Federalist Society held a luncheon whose honored guest was U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who was on a tour promoting his new book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, co-authored with Bryan Garner.
Following the luncheon and Scalia’s address to the assembly, an individual calling himself “Patriotic Citizen TM” purchased a copy of the book, stood in line to have Scalia autograph it, and then seized on the opportunity to ask, “U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5: Is it your understanding a ‘natural born Citizen’ is a person born in the U.S. to two US-citizen parents?”
Scalia then responded, “Uhh… Umm… Ahh… I have to research that.”
As background information, Patriotic Citizen TM told The Post & Email that after he heard about the event, he saw it as “an opportunity to bring up the ‘natural born Citizen’ question.”
He further explained:
The person who ran the event said that there was going to be an opportunity for Q&A, and at your tables are 3×5 cards and pens. “You may write a question and submit it,” one of the event coordinators said. So I wrote the question. My ideal question in this scenario is: “The U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5: is it your understanding that a ‘natural born Citizen’ is a person born in the U.S. to two U.S.-citizen parents, and what about any variation on that theme?”
I ran out of space on the card, so I ended it before “what about any variation on that theme?” The question never got asked, and some of the most bizarre questions were asked. I think they just wanted to keep it balanced and light. Throughout Justice Scalia’s presentation, he brought up all kinds of things that are directly related to this.
Scalia began his address to the group by discussing the Bill of Rights, recounting the debate of the Founders and Framers on how to structure the new government. He asserted that they believed that “without a sound constitution, a Bill of Rights would be meaningless, and they were right.” He said there are “very few” countries possessing a bicameral legislature which do not simply vote out a chief executive of whose policies they do not approve.
Scalia acknowledged a “vast expansion of the federal government” in modern times but asserted that the U.S. is still a “federal republic.” He stressed that the “most important court” in the land is not the U.S. Supreme Court. “Federal law is a small part of the laws under which we are governed,” he said.
After approximately ten minutes, Scalia asked for questions submitted by attendees.
Patriotic Citizen TM views his encounter with Scalia as a “model” for others who could attend similar events which host members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I bought the book; I was about the third person in line. I gave the book to his helper, who opened it up to the proper page, and he gave it to another helper, who was seated at a table with Justice Scalia. The book was then handed by his helper to Justice Scalia.” At that point in the process, Patriotic Citizen TM then asked Scalia the question.
He reported that Scalia first stuttered, then said, “If the person is a U.S. citizen…” after which the patriotic citizen clarified that “citizen” is required for a member of the House of Representatives and Senate.
Patriotic Citizen TM described the remainder of the conversation:
“President” is the only one that says “natural born Citizen,” and Scalia then said, “Oh, for President,” and I said, “Yes.” I figured when I said “Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5,” he would know, but he’s got a lot on his mind. I restated: a person born in the U.S. to two U.S.-citizen parents…as you’re familiar with Emmerich de Vattel’s Law of Nations… and I got the impression that he responded positively. In his presentation, Scalia referred to how he is all about that founding and framing era. He said he and Justice Thomas are the only ones. So it seems according to Scalia, even if appointed by Republican Presidents, the others are up in the air.
The takeaway statement is, “I have to research that.”
Scalia has quoted Vattel previously, when the Supreme Court ruled on Arizona’s multi-pronged immigration law passed in 2010, to which Scalia wrote a scathing dissent of the majority opinion striking down a majority of the law’s provisions.
Also in 2010, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas told a congressional panel that the court was “evading” the question of the meaning of the “natural born Citizen” clause.
Patriotic Citizen TM said that in his 30-second exchange with Scalia, he believes he benefited more than the many litigants who have filed presidential eligibility lawsuits against Sen. John McCain and Barack Hussein Obama since 2008. “All these people who filed lawsuits and never got standing, and I got it for $75 admission and a $40 book…that’s $115 and the passion of a patriotic American, you can go face-to-face with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and ask him what his understanding of ‘natural born Citizen’ is as per the Constitution. That blows me away…that’s what I love about America,” he told us.
“Think of all the time, money and research that people invested who are just as patriotic as me, and they got no standing,” he said. He then proposed the following:
We should use this as a model going forward. As the story goes, each year, Supreme Court justices make public and private speaking appearances over the summer. You may go to the Supreme Court website, among other internet platforms, and check into Supreme Court justices’ schedules. They go around the nation for various reasons. It just so happened that Justice Scalia just wrote a book, and he’s on a book tour, and it’s being coordinated in part by The Federalist Society. If people in our movement can get into those meetings or other public appearances, or even if it’s private, get into these opportunities, it’s something we can try.
Patriotic Citizen TM said he also had the opportunity to educate a co-host of the private reception held for Scalia last evening on the “natural born Citizen” issue during a break between the two events.
He told us of that encounter:
I stated my question to Scalia to her, and she said, “Well, the person has to be a citizen,” so I brought up point after point after point…and she was blown away. She is a major Republican donor. To demonstrate, I put my hand on my heart and pledged allegiance to the Flag and Constitution of the United States of America, explaining that the allegiance is singular. It’s not, “I pledge divided allegiance because my dad was born somewhere else and he’s still a citizen somewhere else, and my mom is a citizen of here or there or anywhere…” I said, “They fail the test, and the Republican Party is playing into it.” So she was blown away. I got the impression she thought you just had to be a U.S. citizen and meet the other requirements of age and residency.
Patriotic Citizen TM said his luncheon companion also received an education on “natural born Citizen” on Tuesday. In an apparent reference to Barack Obama, his friend remarked, “So it’s not about the birth certificate; it’s about the Kenyan father,” after witnessing Patriotic Citizen TM’s explanation to the private reception’s co-host.
In reflecting on the event on Wednesday, Patriotic Citizen TM observed, “I got the impression I was the only person to take the opportunity to interact with Justice Scalia, as the others only got their book signed, said thanks, and some posed briefly for a quick photo.”
He added, “I thank God for the opportunity, and I just pray to God that somehow, something good is going to be made of this. I feel as if I made some breakthroughs for our patriotic American movement today, and it keeps the momentum going on to that ultimate breakthrough we’re all seeking for the overall good of America.”
[Editor’s Note: The Phoenix Federalist Society has reported that the Scalia event was attended by “over 300 people.”]