- Houston attorney files challenge against Canadian-born senator
- Case presented as 229-year-old question for U.S. Supreme Court
Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz should be disqualified from the race because he isn’t a “natural-born citizen,” a fellow Texan claims in a “birther” challenge filed against the senator in a U.S. court.
The suit seeks a court definition of the term to clarify whether Cruz -- who was born in Canada to an American mother -- can or can’t serve if elected.
“This 229-year question has never been pled, presented to or finally decided by or resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Houston attorney Newton B. Schwartz Sr. said in his 28-page complaint. “Only the U.S. Supreme Court can finally decide, determine judicially and settle this issue now.”
Claiming that “time is of the essence” because of the rapidly approaching Iowa caucuses and March 1 Super Tuesday primaries, Schwartz asked that the case be expedited for resolution by the nation’s highest court as soon as possible.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump pressed the issue during a televised candidate debate Thursday evening in South Carolina, saying he’s bringing up Cruz’s Canadian birthplace “because now he’s doing a little bit better” in the polls. Trump insisted that Cruz receive a judgment from the courts because it would be bad for Republicans to have the issue hanging over their presidential or vice-presidential nominee.
“There is a big overhang. A big question mark on your head,” Trump told Cruz. “You can’t do that to the party.”
Cruz chuckled when asked to respond to Trump’s taunts and swatted them away deftly. Trump, on the other end of the exchange, faced many boos from the crowd.
“There’s nothing to this birther issue,” Cruz said during the debate, noting that Trump said last fall that he was a natural-born citizen. “Since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed. But the poll numbers have. I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa. But the facts and the law are really clear. Under longstanding U.S. law, the child of a U.S. citizen abroad is a natural born citizen.”
Schwartz, 85, said in a phone interview he isn’t connected to any particular campaign, though he personally “probably” supports Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator seeking the Democratic nomination.
“Honestly, I was watching C-SPAN one night when Donald Trump was talking about it and I couldn’t believe no one had thought to just file something with the court,” said Schwartz, a practicing trial attorney and self-described news junkie.
“It’s such a simple procedure -- I’m amazed no one did it,” Schwartz said. “Senator Cruz should have filed it himself to avoid the question.”
Asked about the lawsuit, Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for the Cruz campaign, said: “I’d refer you to the debate exchange on the issue.”
Schwartz said he filed the paperwork himself with no one else advising him and he said he does not have an opinion for which way the court should rule.
“The country will be in chaos if he’s elected president or vice president and this goes to trial then,” Schwartz said. “I can see both sides of this argument.”
The attorney added that he’s got “nothing against” Cruz.
“If he gets cleared, he gets cleared,” Schwartz said. “Let’s just get this thing settled before the primaries and the convention and the election.”
The case is Schwartz v. Cruz, 4:16-cv-00106, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).