Dick Cheney is a Wyoming resident and therefore would be constitutionally qualified to serve as George W. Bush’s vice president, a federal appeals court ruled today.
The ruling came from the bench after an hour-long hearing in which lawyers for three Texas residents argued that Cheney had moved to Bush’s home state of Texas when he took a job there in 1993.
The 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents the president and vice president from living in the same state.
The three-judge appellate panel took a short recess after the arguments, then Judge Patrick Higginbotham returned to say without elaboration that the panel was in agreement that Cheney clearly is a Wyoming resident.
Higginbotham was appointed by former President Reagan. The others—Rhesa H. Barksdale and Jacques L. Wiener Jr.—were appointed by former President Bush.
Plaintiffs Are Ready to Appeal
The three plaintiffs are prepared to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the appeals court sides with a lower court judge, said James Jones, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.
“It’s an important constitutional question,” Jones said. “It’s one that Bush and Cheney have tried to finesse, but I think it’s one that deserves serious attention.”
U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater, a Republican appointed by President Reagan, ruled Friday that Cheney has proven he “has both a physical presence within the state of Wyoming and the intent that Wyoming be his place of habitation.”
Cheney spokeswoman Juleanna Glover Weiss predicted the appeal would fail. A similar lawsuit filed in Florida was dismissed Nov. 20.
“We just think they have no legal grounds and that the case itself is baseless,” she said. “At some point, they’re going to have to take stock and realize this dog don’t hunt.”
Dallas Home Since 1993
Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman, lived in Dallas while he was chairman of Halliburton Co. until he changed his voting registration to Teton County, Wyo., on July 21 — four days before becoming Bush’s running mate.
He or his wife have owned a home in Dallas since 1993, but have entered into a contract to sell the property, which was listed for $3.1 million. Cheney, who was defense secretary under President George Bush, also owns property in McLean, Va.
Jones said Cheney’s house was listed as “owner-occupied” when it was put on the market in November.
The plaintiffs are Dallas-area residents Stephen E. Jones, a Texas Wesleyan University law student, and Linda D. Lydia and Caroline Franco, both housewives. The suit named Bush, Cheney, Texas Secretary of State Elton Bomer and the 32 Texas electors as defendants.
Weiss said the plaintiffs are Democrats, but Jones said he did not know his clients’ party affiliations.