Supreme Court to Decide Trump’s Eligibility for 2024 Ballot

Former US President Donald Trump sits in New York State Supreme Court during the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization, in New York City on January 11, 2024. Trump's legal team will deliver closing arguments January 11 in the fraud case after the judge barred the former president from using the trial finale as an election campaign grandstand. (Photo by Peter Foley / POOL / AFP)

The Colorado Supreme Court’s groundbreaking ruling to exclude former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 ballot, citing the “insurrectionist clause” of the 14th Amendment, is now under the scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court. With oral arguments concluded, the Justices are under pressure to come to a decision as fast as they can.

Trump Appeals to Supreme Court

Denver, USA - May 25, 2016: The main entrance of the Colorado Supreme Court building. A man is coming down the stairs.
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On Jan 3, Trump appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the Colorado ruling that excluded him from the ballot.

Barring Voters from Electing Presidential Candidates

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Trump’s legal team contends that the exclusion decision, if upheld, would be unprecedented, barring voters from electing a major-party presidential candidate.

Key Constitutional Questions in the Case

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Central to the case are crucial constitutional questions, such as whether the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause applies to presidential candidates and who qualifies as having engaged in insurrection.

The argument

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Trump’s lawyers argued that the Colorado ruling contradicts the foundational concept of “government of the people, by the people,” stressing the need for the Supreme Court to address this critical issue.

Colorado Supreme Court’s Historic 4-3 Decision

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The Colorado Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision marks the first application of the disqualification clause against a presidential candidate. 

Post-Civil War Constitutional Provision

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The Colorado decision rested on a constitutional provision dating back to the post-Civil War era, prohibiting individuals who participated in insurrection or rebellion from holding public office.

14th Amendment’s Insurrection Clause Origins

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The insurrection clause, also known as Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was initially intended to prevent former Confederates from returning to their former government positions.

Trump’s Capitol Riot Role and Exemption

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Previously, a judge acknowledged Trump’s role in the Capitol riot but argued that the presidency is exempt from the insurrection clause.

Maine State Court Applies Insurrection Clause 

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This clause, however, has been applied in the Maine state court, leading to a similar exclusion with potential national implications. The ruling by Maine’s secretary of state has been paused pending the US Supreme Court’s ruling on the Colorado case.

Supreme Court’s Conservative Majority Justics

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The Supreme Court’s conservative majority, including three Trump appointees, is likely to influence a broader effort to disqualify the leading GOP presidential candidate from appearing on the ballots of other states in preparation for the 2024 election.

Court’s Approach to Trump’s Ballot Eligibility

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Legal analysts are divided on how the Court will proceed. James Heilpern, an appellate attorney, emphasized the importance of correctly addressing the critical issue of Trump’s eligibility for the ballot.

Not an “Officer of the United States”

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Trump’s defense is based on the argument that the president is not an “officer of the United States” as per the 14th Amendment.

President is an Officer of the United States

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However, according to Heilpern, his research, including historical documents like the Postal Act of 1799 and presidential proclamations, contradicts this claim, clearly identifying the president as a U.S. officer.

Ruling in Favor of Trump 

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David Schultz, a political science professor, predicts the Court may avoid directly addressing the insurrection issue, possibly ruling in favor of Trump on different grounds. During oral arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to imply that Justices were worried about the political fallout of ruling against Trump.

No Criminal Charges Filed against Trump

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Trump’s legal team argues against his involvement in the insurrection, noting the absence of criminal charges. The team made headlines when one lawyer argued that the president should be able to personally order a Navy Seal team to assassinate a political rival and not be charged, as long as the Senate did not convict them for that specific offense.

Broader Significance of 14th Amendment Interpretation

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Heilpern points out the crucial nature of this case beyond Trump’s eligibility. It touches upon interpreting the 14th Amendment and its application to presidential actions, potentially reshaping the legal framework around presidential accountability. 

Supreme Court to Shape Insurrection Allegation Precedents

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The Supreme Court’s ruling could set a precedent for how future allegations of insurrection or rebellion are addressed in the context of presidential candidates.

Urgency Grows for Swift Ruling as 2024 Election Nears

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As the 2024 election approaches, the urgency for a definitive ruling intensifies. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the group challenging Trump’s candidacy in Colorado, is calling for a swift resolution to clarify the situation for voters.

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