The Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago has agreed to hear a lawsuit on Senator Ted Cruz’s eligibility for president. The issue centers on Cruz being born in Canada to a US citizen mother and a noncitizen father, and whether or not this would conflict with the constitutional requirement that all candidates be “natural-born citizens”. At question is the interpretation of Natural-Born Citizen which is what the lawsuit in Illinois will seek to resolve. The lawsuit was filed by Lawrence Joyce, an attorney who has told various media outlets that he is a Dr. Ben Carson supporter and doesn’t have any connection to the Trump campaign. The Washington Examiner reports that Joyce is aiming to get the eligibility issue resolved during the primaries, rather than allow the Democrats take advantage of the issue in the event Cruz is nominated.
The Constitution states “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.” The controversy stems from the fact that no real definition is provided for “natural born citizen”, and there has never been a court case to decisively settle the question as a matter of US Law.
The majority of constitutional law scholars who have written about the meaning of “natural-born citizen” have agreed that if a court were to rule on the matter, it should rule that someone born outside the US but eligible for citizenship through parents counts as “natural born”. However there remain valid points from the opposition, as Mary Brigid McManamon of Delaware Law School recently pointed out. McManamon argued the precedent the Founding Fathers used was the English common law tradition (law made by courts rather than legislation), which in the common law, “natural born” did not apply to children born outside the bounds of the country. Hence why Parliament had to pass bills to include such children. Its fair to say that determining the Founding Fathers intent will always remain an elusive issue. It will be interesting to see if this lawsuit affects Senator Cruz’s standing amidst the GOP Primary.