by Sharon Rondeau
(Jul. 10, 2021) — The U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged receipt of a petition for rehearing in the case of Laity v. Harris, 20-1503, which claims that former U.S. Senator from California Kamala Harris is not eligible to serve as the nation’s vice president.
An observer noted that the Court posted the update on Thursday, July 8. As stated on the calendar, the Court held the last oral arguments of its “October 2020” term in April, adjourning for its customary three-month summer break earlier this month.
“In May and June the Court sits only to announce orders and opinions,” the Court’s website states. “The Court recesses at the end of June, but the work of the Justices is unceasing. During the summer they continue to analyze new petitions for review, consider motions and applications, and must make preparations for cases scheduled for fall argument.”
The Court returns for its new calendar year on September 27, 2021.
The case originated last fall in the U.S. District Court for the District of Washington, DC and was appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. When a three-judge panel dismissed the case for lack of “standing” and threatened monetary sanctions, Laity requested a rehearing from the full court which was denied. From there, he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which docketed the case in late April, then distributed it for its June 1 conference.
In his petition for rehearing, Laity claimed that Harris, who was born in Oakland, CA in 1964 to two foreign-citizen parents present in the U.S. on student visas, “is NOT the bona-fide Vice-President of the United States. She is not an Article II, Sec. 1, Clause 5 ‘Natural Born Citizen’,” referring to the section of the U.S. Constitution which sets forth eligibility criteria for the president and commander-in-chief.
With the ratification of the 12th Amendment in 1804, vice-presidential candidates are required to meet all of the qualifications of the president.
Further in his petition, Laity contended, “This court has long established that a ‘Natural Born Citizen’ is one born in the United States to parents who are both U.S. Citizens themselves.” In an apparent reference to a statement U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas made to Rep. José Serrano, then-chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government in 2010 as to presidential eligibility, Laity wrote:
The Constitutional requirement that a President and Vice-President be “Natural Born and Citizen(s)” cannot be abrogated by “evading” the issue. It is the sworn duty of all federal public officers and employees to obey the Constitution of the United States and to defend against all encroachments of said Constitution that is brought to their attention. The purposeful “Evading” of addressing said encroachments constitutes Misprision, Malfeasance in Office and Non-feasance.”
On July 6, legal scholar Joseph DeMaio wrote of the case:
The litigation, of course, involves a challenge by one Robert Laity to the constitutional “natural born Citizen” eligibility of Kamala Devi Harris to serve as vice-president. His petition for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – which had affirmed the dismissal of his case by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for lack of his “standing” to bring and maintain the action – was denied by the Supreme Court on June 1, 2021…
While there may be a variety of reasons for this circumstance including, for example, lack of “standing,” “separation of powers,” “political question” or garden variety “the issue is too radioactive,” the fact remains that in the absence of a definitive Supreme Court decision, the question of who can – and more importantly, who cannot – serve as president or vice-president under the Constitution has been sloughed off to the opinions of lower state and federal courts, the Congressional Research Service (more on that later) and a bevy of law professors and former Solicitors General.
If that collection of “authorities” – as opposed to the U.S. Supreme Court itself – is by default to be deemed as having the “final say” on the interpretation of the Constitution’s eligibility clause, then the Court, at minimum, should articulate that reality. Lacking that declaration, the issue will continue to surface every four years (or more frequently) into the future.
Separately, Laity is in the process of contacting all members of the U.S. Congress regarding the proposal of a constitutional amendment defining “natural born Citizen” as, “A person born in the United States to parents who are both United States Citizens themselves.”
As of this writing, Laity has reported he sent formal requests via the U.S. Postal Service to all 100 US Senators.