A hearing to determine whether President Barack Obama is eligible to be on the primary ballot in Georgia took place on Thursday, with the defendants, Obama and his legal team, notably absent.
Georgia Deputy Chief Judge Michael Malihi subpoenaed the president last week after refusing to hear his legal team's challenge to the case, but neither Obama nor his lawyers ever planned on showing up.
Instead, Obama attorney Michael Jablonski wrote a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican and the ultimate arbiter on the question of Obama's ballot eligibility, telling him that he expected Kemp to throw out the "baseless, costly and unproductive" case.
Kemp responded, telling Obama's counsel that they would skip the ballot hearing "at your own peril."
The true nature of the "peril" Obama might face, however, began to play out during Thursday's proceeding.
The complaints being presented at the hearing are based off various claims that Obama is either beholden to an 1875 Supreme Court ruling that determined "natural born citizens" were people born in the United States to parents who are both U.S. citizens, or that he is using fraudulent documents to prove his eligibility.
California attorney Orly Taitz, queen bee of the birthers and a proponent of the latter belief, stood before what Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described as "100 people ... most of them older white Americans" to argue her plaintiff's case.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Judge Malihi was forced to cut her off during her closing arguments, when she attempted to serve as both lawyer and witness.
In the end, no groundbreaking arguments, testimony or evidence were presented at Thursday's hearing, perhaps a testament to the tired nature of these challenges. Taitz is one of the most seasoned veterans of the birther movement, and the fact that she was even granted a hearing came as her first "victory." She was fined $20,000 last year by a Georgia judge for filing frivolous lawsuits of the same nature.
Even with the decision by Obama's legal team to completely ignore the supposed merits of the case, Bookman writes that Secretary of State Kemp is likely left with only one choice:
At any rate, the final decision is Kemp's. Regardless of what Malihi recommends, Kemp does not want to become the Republican secretary of state who ruled Barack Obama off the ballot in Georgia. Becoming a birther hero would not begin to compensate for the lasting infamy such a step would bring him, especially because such a ruling would be challenged in state or federal court and almost immediately overturned on any number of reasons. Kemp would then look like a fool and put an end to any further political ambitions he might have. I doubt that’s the course he will choose to take.
While Kemp, Malihi and the plaintiffs watched the case unfold, Obama was in Las Vegas, expanding upon an energy blueprint that he had unveiled at his State of the Union address.
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