BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ A state judge agreed with Democrats on Monday and dismissed a lawsuit aimed at keeping President Barack Obama off the ballot in Alabama this year, joining other jurists who have thrown out cases arguing Obama isn't a natural-born U.S. citizen and can't legally hold the office.
The fight isn't yet over whether Obama will appear on the state's ballot, however, since a similar suit was filed as the time the judge was tossing the first one.
Circuit Judge Helen Shores Lee, herself a Democrat, sided with a party lawyer who argued that plaintiff Albert Hendershot Jr.'s claims about Obama's eligibility to serve are a political dispute, not a legal question, and don't belong in court.
Hendershot, who filed suit in December, declined comment after a brief hearing, but he previously said he would appeal to the Republican-controlled Alabama Supreme Court.
As the hearing was being conducted, Crenshaw County resident Harold Sorensen filed a similar lawsuit in Jefferson County. That case, too, was assigned to Lee by random draw.
The complaints by Hendershot and Sorensen mirrored claims by so-called “birthers'' who contend Obama has a fake birth certificate and Social Security number, but Hendershot told the judge he isn't among those believers.
Hendershot, who appeared in court without a lawyer, sued state Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy in an attempt to keep Obama off the ballot in the presidential primary on March 13. He cited Lee's party affiliation in asking her to step aside from the suit and tried to withdraw the complaint when she refused, but Lee held the hearing and dismissed the suit instead.
An attorney for Kennedy, Barry Ragsdale, argued that Hendershot's complaint was a “generalized grievance'' based on Internet rumors, and that Alabama courts don't have the power to intervene in such issues.
“This court should not have to be dedicating its resources to hearing a complaint that is political in nature,'' Ragsdale said. Even if the court had jurisdiction, he said, the Hawaiian birth certificate that was presented publicly last year proves Obama is a citizen and settles the eligibility issue under Alabama law.
Hendershot asked the judge to hold a full-blown hearing on the evidence so he could prove Obama isn't eligible to serve as president.
“We have people who are just waiting to come to Alabama and testify,'' he told the judge.
“Is that it?'' she asked.
“That's all I have,'' said Hendershot.
Lee then dismissed the case and said she would issue a written order later. Ragsdale said Obama opponents could still file similar challenges elsewhere in the state in a bid to keep the president of the Alabama ballot.
“One thing I've learned about birthers is you can never say die,'' Ragsdale said outside court.
Hendershot had asked for a delay in the hearing so he could be represented by Orly Taitz, a California dentist and attorney who has lost similar challenges in New Hampshire and Georgia. Taitz also was involved in a California case in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit in December over Obama's citizenship.
Ragsdale opposed a delay, saying the state party needed to settle the ballot, and Lee refused to postpone the hearing.