We Have Our First Lawsuit Over Ted Cruz’s Eligibility — And It’s A Doozy

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, participates in a business round table at Draft Sports Bar & Grill in Concord, N.H., Monday, Aug. 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

An 85-year-old Houston lawyer filed suit Thursday asking a federal court in Texas to rule on whether Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) is eligible to be President. It appears to be the first lawsuit challenging the Canadian-born Cruz’s eligibility on the grounds that he does not meet the Constitution’s “natural born citizen” requirement. But if Cruz-opponents were looking for the ideal test case to trip up his candidacy, this may not be it.

Newton B. Schwartz, Sr., who is leaning toward supporting Bernie Sanders for president, filed the lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment in the U.S. District Court in Southern District of Texas, as reported by Bloomberg News.

The lawsuit cites recent analysis by Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe — as well as concerns raised by C-SPAN callers and by Donald Trump — that Cruz is not natural born. The rambling 28-page complaint brings all sorts of seemingly unrelated issues, including the Texas abortion case the Supreme Court will hear in March, the case it recently heard on public unions’ fee structures and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a Constitutional Convention.

“No previous case has been presented or decided on this issue by the U.S. Supreme Court, including because in fact none arose, as here to being a case or controversy ripe for decisions as here is presented,” the complaint said. “The entire nation cannot afford such constitutionally confusion and uncertainties overhangings the electorate process.”

The complaint argues that Cruz’s issue is very different than the “birther” theories about President Barack Obama’s birth, and that past presidential candidates like George Romney — who was born in Mexico — were also ineligible to be president or vice president.

“Ted Cruz is not the first foreign born ineligible president candidate to run afoul of the above U.S. Constitution originals and other laws,” the complaint said. “The list is long.”

Trump has inflamed questions about who qualifies as a “natural born citizen” by calling on Cruz to seek a declaratory opinion from the courts on his eligibility to be president. Legal scholars have pointed out that the legal system is not that simple, and that it is unclear who would even have standing to bring the suit.

On CNN Friday afternoon, Schwartz said Cruz should “welcome” the suit.

“When I was in college, I was in charge of keeping athletes eligible, and no Nick Saban or coach in the United States would risk having an ineligible player,” Schwartz said. “The stakes are exponentially higher for not having a eligible candidate for president or vice president, and it’s too expensive to go through the caucuses only to determine that he is not eligible, and that is why I brought it, because nobody else did.”

This story has been updated to include comments Schwartz made on CNN.

Read the full complaint below:

Latest Livewire
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: