Minnesota Supreme Court seeks supplemental briefing in light of its 2012 order on “birther” challenge to Barack Obama’s candidacy

It is a challenge to find all of the various presidential eligibility challenges over the years. My scholarship cites some, but it’s hardly exhaustive. In 2016, I had an effort to keep a running list. And as I emphasized back in November 2022, the piecemeal and state-specific nature of the litigation makes it a challenge from state to state.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered supplemental briefing after finding an (apparently unpublished) order from 2012 in a “birther”-style challenge to Barack Obama’s candidacy. That order concluded (1) laches applied, (2) presidential candidates are exempt from certifying their eligibility under state law, and (3) “under federal law it is Congress that decides challenges to the qualifications of an individual to serve as president. See 3 U.S.C. § 15.” (1) was adequate to decide the case, so it’s not clear why the court continued to other issues; (2) may well be right, but hardly address the separate court-initiated challenges to qualifications that may occur; and (3), as I’ve argued elsewhere, is wrong insofar as it purports to claim that Congress has exclusive domain to decide these matters, and would require some claim about the power of Congress to enact the Electoral Count Act to strip states of certain kinds of power.

We’ll see what the briefing yields. (Disclosure: I filed an amicus brief in support of neither party in the case, and I did urge some caution in Part IV of the brief in how state law applies to these challenges.)

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