Hawaii appeals court rejects 'birther' appeal

AP News
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Posted: Apr 07, 2011 8:50 PM
Hawaii appeals court rejects 'birther' appeal

A Hawaii appeals court has rejected a man's request to "inspect and copy" Honolulu-born President Barack Obama's birth certificate, saying the plaintiff failed to state a valid claim to having access to the document.

Chief Judge Craig Nakamura wrote in an opinion issued Thursday that Robert V. Justice didn't show there were "compelling circumstances" requiring the state Department of Health to show him the birth certificate. Two associate justices of the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals concurred, one in a separate opinion.

Hawaii's privacy laws bar the release of birth records unless the requester is someone with a tangible interest, such as a close family member.

Justice didn't dispute he lacked a tangible interest. But he said he should be able to see the birth certificate anyway under a provision of the law that makes exceptions if there are "compelling circumstances affecting the health or safety of any individual."

Justice, who represented himself before the court, said "the health and safety of every American" was at stake in this case because Obama, as president, is responsible for ensuring national security and "the health and safety of the 300 million Americans living on American soil."

But Nakamura wrote the exception exists to allow people access to vital records in medical or safety emergencies.

He noted the federal Privacy Act has a similar provision. He cited a 1974 U.S. Senate committee report on the law saying the exception exists to protect a government employee or agency from violating the law when they have to release personal information about someone to save the person's life. A separate U.S. House committee report from the same year said an airline crash or an epidemic would be examples of valid emergency situations in which an exception would apply.

Nakamura said Justice's desire to verify Obama's eligibility for president doesn't meet this standard. He added Justice failed to "allege any basis for questioning that President Obama is a natural born citizen and that he is eligible to serve as president."

Hawaii's former health director said she verified Obama's original records in 2008 and 2009. Public notices were published in two local newspapers within days of Obama's birth at a Honolulu hospital.

The Obama campaign issued a certification of live birth in 2008, an official document from the state showing the president's Aug. 4, 1961, birth date, his birth city and name, and his parents' names and races.

So-called "birthers" claim there's no proof Obama was born in the United States, and he is therefore ineligible to be president.