Texas lawyer sues Cruz to challenge eligibility

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Texas lawyer has filed the first suit seeking clarification on whether Republican candidate Ted Cruz is eligible to be president because he was born in Canada.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz holds his hands out while he speaks during the conservative leadership project event in Columbia, South Carolina January 15, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Newton Schwartz, 85, of Houston also cited Cruz’s stance on issues such as abortion rights, gay marriage and the Bible in a 27-page argument against the Texas senator’s eligibility.

Billionaire Donald Trump, the front-runner in the Republican presidential race, has repeatedly questioned whether Cruz is eligible and warned he could be sued, throwing the party into chaos and handing the election to the Democrats.

A lawyer in Boston who reviewed the suit and who generally believes Cruz’s eligibility should be questioned said the suit was “defective” and would most likely be thrown out.

Schwartz’s suit, which cites a “crescendo” of questions over the matter, was filed on Thursday in federal court in the Southern District of Texas. It is a class action, meaning other people can join, and it requests that a court rule on the issue before November’s presidential election.

“If I lose the suit that’s fine, he’s eligible, but if he’s elected and he’s determined to be ineligible after the election, that would cause massive confusion,” Schwartz, a self-described liberal, said.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said there is no connection between Trump and Schwartz.

Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta. His mother was a U.S. citizen and his father is Cuban. He has dismissed attacks on his eligibility and pointed out during a Republican candidates’ debate on Thursday that 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain and 1968 Republican candidate George Romney also were born outside the United States but still were considered eligible to be president.

A Reuters poll found a quarter of Republicans think Cruz is not qualified because of his birthplace.[nL2N14Z098] A Cruz spokesman declined to comment on Schwartz’s suit.

The U.S. Constitution says a president or vice president must be a “natural born citizen” but does not say whether the term means the candidate must be born on U.S. soil or just be a citizen at birth. Any child born to an American mother, no matter where, is considered a U.S. citizen.

Schwartz’s lawsuit mentions domestic issues that could be affected if Cruz were president because he opposes abortion and gay marriage. Reached by phone, Schwartz said the issues did not relate to Cruz’s citizenship but that he had wanted to include them as examples of “some of the downside consequences of his being elected.”

Vincent DeVito, a Boston lawyer who represented President George W. Bush during the contested 2000 presidential election, said the suit was “likely defective” and should have been filed in state court.

“On its merits, the claim is legitimate,” DeVito said, “but the Schwartz pleading itself is poorly written and does not have a sophisticated legal nexus.”

DeVito said he expected more suits to be filed challenging Cruz.

The case is Schwartz v. Cruz, 4:16-cv-00106, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).