By golly, I’m here, so I’m a citizen, right? Apparently some think that being on American soil is all that is required to be a citizen. I’ve heard people say that they are a “citizen of the world,” which is all nice and fuzzy, but there is no such thing. This whole issue about being a “citizen” is getting out of hand when logic and the law dictate the result. I’ll explain.
Black’s Law Dictionary, my primary secondary source for all definitions legal, defines citizen as: “In general, a member of a free city or jural society, (civitas.) possessing all the rights and privileges which can be enjoyed by any person under its constitution and government, and subject to the corresponding duties.” Since that definition seems pretty logical, my knowledge quest continued by researching the word “civitas,” which Black’s says means: “In the Roman law. Anybody of people living under the same laws; a state.” I also looked up jural, which means “relating to the law.”
To be a citizen requires that one be a subject to a government. There is no “world government” (yet) and thus there is no such thing as a citizen of the world. One can say that they are a soul of the world, or a butterfly of the world, or whatever else, but to be a citizen requires subjugation to a political entity.
The Georgia Constitution says that one has to meet certain qualifications to be a State Representative in the Legislature, as one must : 1) Be a citizen of the United States, 2) Must be at least 21 years of age, 3) Must have been a citizen of Georgia for at least two years, 4) Must have been a resident of the district for at least one year at time of election.
Nowhere, but nowhere, does Georgia say that State Representatives have to be smart. Just ask State Rep. Shaw Blackmon. He’s plenty smart, by the way, but he’s met State Rep. Heath Clark. Heath’s plenty smart too, but he’s met State Rep. Robert Dickey. Now Dickey’s sorta smart, but he’s a peach farmer who hopes and prays for Mother Nature to give him enough chill hours every year for his peaches, and that doesn’t seem too smart, yet he makes a good living. Anyway, I bet one of these three would admit that some state representatives aren’t entirely smart. But that doesn’t matter, it is NOT a requirement! Being a citizen is however.
So why all this blather about being a citizen? It seems that a certain Democratic Party candidate for Georgia State Representative in House District 29 thought that the qualification of being a “citizen of Georgia for two years” didn’t apply to her, because she just became a U.S. citizen this past year. So surely the rules are waived for her, because she is special. As a new citizen, but having lived in Georgia since 2009, she could bring a new approach to how Georgia deals with important issues, like comprehending what laws mean. Alas, she’ll have to wait until the next election cycle because the Georgia Supremes upheld a lower court ruling that “Must have been a citizen of Georgia for at least two years” means what it says.
The ACLU, often a sucker for a losing cause, supported her effort to evade Georgia law by funding her appeal. The ACLU said that being a resident for two years was enough. But their attorneys apparently didn’t have a Black’s Law Dictionary around to explain that resident and citizen aren’t the same thing. To prove that, one only has to look at the qualifications, where the Legislature used the term “resident” and “citizen” distinctly and succinctly. Black’s defines a resident as “One who has his residence in a place.” It’s easy to be a resident, but one has to be a subject of a government to be a citizen. In this instance, the Court got it right because the Court knows how to use a Black’s Law Dictionary too.
Just by reading, and understanding this column, you have passed Law School 101. But that alone does not make you a citizen.