Gary Kreep says Monday will include the most important 10 minutes of his life.
The Ramona resident has practiced constitutional law since 1975. At age 60, he says he has dedicated his whole life to it.
When he steps into the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena on Monday, he'll ask a panel of three judges for a chance to show evidence that the president of the United States isn't eligible for the job. He'll argue that Barack Obama wasn't born in this country and that the plaintiffs in his case—members of the American Independent Party—didn't get a fair shake in the 2008 presidential election.
The case was dismissed in the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana in 2009, and the appeal has been on the calendar for two months, Kreep said.
Other attorneys around the country have filed eligibility related cases, but Kreep told Ramona Patch that his is different.
“It's the only case in the country that has been allowed to proceed to oral arguments,” he said.
Others have been dismissed on procedural issues or for lack of merit, Kreep said. He said he can't speculate why his case has progressed this far but that the appellate judges must have found merit in it.
Many Americans believe the argument about the president's birthplace should end with the release of what appears to be his long-form birth certificate this week, according to news reports.
Kreep doesn't agree.
“We don't know whether it's a real birth certificate until our forensic expert has a chance to look at the original,” he said. “All we can go by is what's on the White House website, which looks like a combination of several documents. Computers are too good these days.”
Kreep said the issue of Obama's birthplace was raised in 2004 during the Senate race and again in 2007. He wonders why the president didn't release his birth certificate back then instead of allowing the expenditure of taxpayers' dollars on legal cases like this.
Asked why he thinks an elected official might keep details of his birth hidden, Kreep said, “Arrogance, stupidity.”
Kreep is executive director of the conservative United States Justice Foundation, a nonprofit group he founded in Escondido with two other attorneys in 1979. The foundation has helped fund six similar legal cases around the country. Kreep said his average donors are “ordinary people who give about $30 each.” They send him donations from all over the country, he said.
Is the high profile and controversial issue making Kreep nervous?
“No,” he said Thursday afternoon, as he prepared to spend the weekend working with three other attorneys who are flying in to help him prepare for Monday. He declined to give their names. Kreep's group also has a consulting forensic expert in documents, Sandra Lines, from Arizona who assists on an hourly basis as needed.
Kreep is representing Wiley Drake and Markham Robinson in the case. Drake was the vice presidential nominee for the American Independent Party in 2008, according to Kreep's legal brief for Monday's hearing. Robinson was the chairman of the party and a pledged presidential elector for the party in California in 2008.
Another candidate, Alan Keyes, represented by attorney Orly Taitz of Rancho Santa Margarita, was the presidential nominee for the American Independent Party.
Oral arguments for the two eligibility cases will be heard together Monday. Each attorney is allowed 10 minutes to talk.
Taitz represented more than 40 plaintiffs when she took the original case to the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana in 2009. Drake and Robinson removed themselves from the case and sought a new attorney. They found Kreep. Taitz later told the court that there were “irreconcilable differences” between her and Kreep, according to Kreep's brief.
The judge ruled that the federal trial court doesn't have jurisdiction to rule on the eligibility issue.
Ramona Patch asked Kreep how he would answer some of the public criticism that people who continue to question the president's eligibility are racist or that they just won't let the issue drop, even in the face of what is considered to be a complete birth certificate?
“I grew up in a black neighborhood in San Francisco,” Kreep said. “I don't care if he's black. People are welcome to think whatever they want.”
Kreep attends Calvary Chapel church and said he's pro life, Republican and not a member of the Tea Party. He dismissed stereotypes about people who've questioned the president's eligibility for the office and said he doesn't consider himself a “birther.”
“And I don't care if Obama's a Christian or a Muslim.”
Those aren't the issues, he said.
Does he support the Tea Party? Some of the people involved in other legal cases against the president have received support from the party.
“It depends. There are lots of Tea parties. I agree with some of them and not with others,” he said.
On Monday, the courtroom is expected to be packed to hear the oral arguments in the appeal. Court staff are telling the public to come early to get a seat. The hearing is the third one on the 9 a.m. calendar.
Kreep said he doesn't know if Ramona residents will be there.
“Hardly anyone knows about it,” he said.
But sometimes he gets death threats from strangers by email, he said.
Does it bother him?
“No. With a name like mine, I'm used to it,” Kreep said.
Kreep ends each phone call in his office with, “God bless you.” In his spare time, he said, he likes to collect antique sports cards. He said he wasn't always a Republican; he was quite liberal in college and has sometimes voted for Democrats. He moved his office to Ramona, he said, because he was able to buy office space instead of renting it.
He said there are several issues regarding the president's citizenship.
"He said he traveled to Pakistan in the 1980s, but on what kind of passport? He said he didn't have a U.S. passport until he was senator in 2004,” Kreep said.
He lists among his successful cases those against school districts over illegal fees they were charging students to take part in cheerleading or to travel to play sports. Although constitutional law is his emphasis, he also does family and business law.
The appellate court will not issue a decision on Monday, Kreep said, but will take an indeterminate length of time to issue a decision. If the panel of judges decides the case can indeed be tried in the U.S. District Court, he expects the U.S. Justice Department to try to block it by filing a writ in the Supreme Court.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is at 125 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena 91105. For directions, click here.