While reading the constitution I came across this:

“No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.”

No person alive today was a citizen at the time of the adoption of the constitution that is eligible for president. All the presidents in my lifetime have been unlawfully same as the president the took us off the gold standard. Nobody should have the power to veto what the people want. Why has this never been interpreted by SCOTUS?

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    Did you see the “or” in that passage? It’s either be naturally born or be a citizen at that point in time. Sep 29, 2021 at 7:49
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    Related: law.stackexchange.com/questions/7194/… (see answer by user6726 and its comment by David Siegel)
    – user35069
    Sep 29, 2021 at 8:23
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    To the close voters, this question isn't actually about the correct interpretation of the constitution; rather, it is asking about procedure: why hasn't the supreme court ruled on the meaning of the passage in question?
    – phoog
    Sep 29, 2021 at 13:04
  • I agree with Phoog, this is not a duplicate, @motosubatsu which is why I have posted an answer. Sep 29, 2021 at 16:07
  • The fact that “at the time of the adoption of this contusion” was added and wasn’t added to Congress or the senate means that the found father wanted extra emphasis on this right? Sep 29, 2021 at 23:27

3 Answers 3


Why has this never been interpreted by SCOTUS?

It has never been interpreted by any court, because the interpretation you're advocating is nonsensical, and nobody has ever tried to advance it in any court. Therefore, no court has had an opportunity to rule on it.

Congress, however, has (at least implicitly) interpreted this clause to mean that all natural-born citizens are eligible to be president if they also fulfill the other requirements, regardless of when they were born, so that is the prevailing interpretation unless someone manages to challenge the interpretation either before congress or in a court. If such a challenge is made then there will be an explicit ruling.

  • Nobody but the Supreme Court can say how it should be interpreted. Congress has no authority to interpreter it to what they choose it to be. Sep 29, 2021 at 23:07
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    @DonutConnection That's just wrong. Every government official in the United States has sworn an oath to support the Constitution. Every government official has an independent obligation to interpret it when needed. The Supreme Court's interpretations are definitive on most issues (some issues are entirely outside the authority of the courts), but that doesn't mean only the Supreme Court can interpret it.
    – cpast
    Sep 29, 2021 at 23:46
  • Ok you are right but it needs a Supreme Court interpretation in order that Congress or whoever else can’t just interpret it anyway they want Oct 6, 2021 at 15:15
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    @DonutConnection nobody seriously disputes the interpretation. It would be a waste of the supreme court justices' time and taxpayers' money for them or for any other court to consider it.
    – phoog
    Oct 6, 2021 at 16:26
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    @DonutConnection "it needs a Supreme Court interpretation in order that Congress or whoever else can’t just interpret it anyway they want" This is incorrect. Any U.S. court has a right and a duty to interpret the constitution in any case presented to it that raises a constitutional issue. The U.S. Supreme Court can't interpret the constitution at all until at least two other courts have done so in most cases, and often more.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 7, 2021 at 4:49

Why has this never been interpreted by SCOTUS?

The Supreme Court deals with actual cases (Article Three of the United States Constitution - Wikipedia).

If no case has been brought to the court, then there is no interpretation from the court.

Nobody should have the power to veto what the people want.

If Gowron (as president) and the Great Pumpkin (as vice president) were actually elected by the people, a case could be brought forward to clarify that being created in the United States is not the same as being born (and thus a natural citizen of) the United States.

Under such circumstances (all safeguards having failed), the case would probably be accepted. Otherwise the case would be rejected being hypothetical or frivious.

  • The courts deal with cases and controversies. Not just cases Sep 29, 2021 at 23:08
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    @DonutConnection They deal with live cases and controversities. Which means that there need to be parties that brought it to court. The judicative can't just start proceedings on its own, only dismiss them for the bringing side did not do its duties.
    – Trish
    Sep 29, 2021 at 23:31
  • @DonutConnection, DaleM, phoog I am aware of that, that is why I wrote mainly in the original text - that was removed by someone else. Sep 30, 2021 at 3:05
  • @Mark Johnson They removed the word mainly ? I feel like my posts are being censored. Are they altering your posts? Where was the mainly word at? Which sentence? Oct 6, 2021 at 15:18
  • @DonutConnection you can see the edit history by clicking the link with the text "edited Sep 30 at 4:30" (or whatever time is indicated).
    – phoog
    Oct 6, 2021 at 16:28

US Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court, can only rule on an issue when it comes up as part of a "case or controversy". This is from Article III, Section 2, Clause 1.

This clause is why US Federal courts do not give advisory opinions, as some state courts and some courts in other countries do. They also do not reach out to decide issues not presented in the form of a case.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever suggested the interpretation described in the question as part of an actual court case, so no US federal court would have ever ruled on it.

If such an interpretation had been presented, the general rule of construction would be applied that a statute (including the Constitution ) will not be interpreted so as to reach an absurd result, when a reasonable interpretation is available. A reading which made no one eligible to be elected President who was born after the US Constitution was adopted would be absurd, and so would never be adopted by any court.

However, Congress effectively interprets this provision every time it certifies the results of a Presidential election, because it is one of Congress's duties to certify only eligible people as having been elected. This means Congress must consider the Constitutional rule on who is eligible, and interpret and apply it.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dale M
    Oct 1, 2021 at 0:26
  • Why was my post closed and who closed it? Oct 2, 2021 at 3:49
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    @DonutConnection In Essay #15 of The Federalist Hamilton writes: "I have unfolded to you a complication of dangers to which you would be exposed, should you permit that sacred knot which binds the people of America together be severed or dissolved...." It is clear that he and the other members of the convention intended the new constitution to be lasting, subject only to such changes ad might be made by way of amendments, and there was no plan for a total replacement at some future date. [...] Oct 6, 2021 at 15:56
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    @DonutConnection it's fairly well documented that at least some of the people involved in producing the constitution thought that it ought to have a fairly short life span on the order of a few decades. Crucially, however, the document itself does not include any expiration date, and the idea that the qualifications for the presidency are an implied expiration date is not tenable. Furthermore, the idea that people born after the adoption of the constitution should be ineligible is not compatible with the 35-year minimum age. There's just no serious controversy about the interpretation.
    – phoog
    Oct 6, 2021 at 16:35
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    @DonutConnection the consent of the governed is expressed collectively through the political process. If enough people want to change the government, they can, either by enacting laws, by amending the constitution, or by overthrowing the government through revolution, the last being a particularly risky way of expressing a lack of consent since lack of success may result in being put to death. This is a risk with which the country's founders were intimately familiar. The idea that individuals enter into a contract with the government is perhaps better thought of as a bit of fiction.
    – phoog
    Oct 8, 2021 at 7:24

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