Supreme Court to hear landmark case seeking to kick Trump off ballot over Capitol attack

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The Supreme Court on Thursday will hear former President Donald Trump’s appeal to remain on the 2024 ballot, the justices’ most consequential election case since Bush v. Gore in 2000.

The court will be weighing arguments over whether Trump is disqualified from reclaiming the White House because of his efforts to undo his loss in the 2020 election, ending with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The case marks the first time the justices will be considering a constitutional provision that was adopted after the Civil War to prevent former officeholders who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office again.

It sets up precisely the kind of case that the court likes to avoid, one in which it is the final arbiter of a political dispute.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump incited the riot in the nation’s capital and is ineligible to be president again. As a result, he should not be on the ballot for the state’s primary on March 5, the court ruled. It was the first time that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was applied to a presidential candidate.

Trump’s lawyers argue that the amendment can’t be used to keep Trump off the ballot for several reasons.

For one thing, they contend the Jan. 6 riot wasn’t an insurrection, and even if it was, Trump did not participate. The wording of the amendment also excludes the presidency and candidates running for president, they say. Even if they’re wrong about all of that, they argue that Congress must pass legislation to reinvigorate Section 3.

The lawyers for Republican and independent voters who sued to remove Trump’s name from the Colorado ballot counter that there is ample evidence that the events of Jan. 6 constituted an insurrection and that Trump incited it. They say it would be absurd to apply Section 3 to everything but the presidency or that Trump is somehow exempt. And the provision needs no enabling legislation, they argue.

A definitive ruling for Trump would largely end efforts in Colorado, Maine and elsewhere to prevent his name from appearing on the ballot.

A decision upholding the Colorado decision would amount to a declaration from the Supreme Court that Trump did engage in insurrection and is barred by the 14th Amendment from holding office again. That would allow states to keep him off the ballot and imperil his campaign.

The justices could opt for a less conclusive outcome, but with the knowledge that the issue could return to them, perhaps after the general election in November and in the midst of a full-blown constitutional crisis.

Trump is separately appealing to state court a ruling by Maine’s Democratic secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, that he was ineligible to appear on that state’s ballot over his role in the Capitol attack. Both the Colorado Supreme Court and the Maine secretary of state’s rulings are on hold until the appeals play out.

The court has signaled it will try to act quickly, dramatically shortening the period in which it receives written briefing and holds arguments in the courtroom.

People began lining up outside the court on Wednesday hoping to snag one of the few seats allotted to the public. “This is a landmark decision and I want to be in the room where it happened, to quote ‘Hamilton,’” said Susan Acker of Cincinnati, Ohio, who was in line with two friends.

The issues may be novel, but Trump is no stranger to the justices, three of whom Trump appointed when he was president. They have considered many Trump-related cases in recent years, declining to embrace his claims of fraud in the 2020 election and refusing to shield tax records from Congress and prosecutors in New York.

Before the Supreme Court is even finished deciding this case, the justices almost certainly will be dealing with another appeal from Trump, who is expected to seek an emergency order to keep his election subversion trial on hold so he can appeal lower-court rulings that he is not immune from criminal charges.

In April, the court also will hear an appeal from one of the more than 1,200 people charged in the Capitol riot. The case could upend a charge prosecutors have brought against more than 300 people, including Trump.

The court last played so central a role in presidential politics in its 5-4 decision that effectively ended the disputed 2000 election in favor of George W. Bush.

Justice Clarence Thomas is the only member of the court who also took part in Bush v. Gore. Thomas has ignored calls by some Democratic lawmakers to step aside from the case because his wife, Ginni, supported Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results and attended the rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters.

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9 thoughts on “Supreme Court to hear landmark case seeking to kick Trump off ballot over Capitol attack

    1. Nevertheless, State rights do NOT usurp the rights of individuals in this country under the Constitution. The Constitution wasn’t made to protect federal or state governments, it was made to protect US citizens from the government(s) and every ounce of our being should be dedicated to protect that core and fundamental element…unless you would like to live in China, Russia, etc…

    2. Stop, Vincent, with the convenient Russia-China flip….it’s not relevant. What is relevant: each state is supposed to determine the manner in which presidential candidates’ electors get to the ElecCollege. And how candidates get on the ballot. This is basic civics stuff.

  1. What’s it matter?

    The originalists will ignore all the commentary by those who actually amended the Constitution… and the historical record … to come up with the outcome they desire.

    Because in this case, if they were actually originalists, it would be a slam dunk and he’d be gone. But they’re really not originalists, as they will show in their findings in this case.

    This is really all Mitch McConnnell’s fault.

  2. Joe B is correct in that the law can be construed to the outcome you desire. I always thought the Supreme Court was the fairest of the branches that always got it right (that’s what we were taught as youngsters) but seeing over the years how they mostly rule based on their political and social leanings has made me despair at how much of law is subjective and to your own interpretation.

    Regarding this case, my one question is how does it matter? The States that would keep him off the ballot he will likely lose anyway and it’s a winner take all for electorates in those States so how does this ultimately affect the outcome?

    1. “How does it matter”

      Do Republicans want to nominate a man for the Presidency who is constitutionally barred from holding the office due to his own past insurrectionist behavior?

    2. I agree with your comment on this SCOTUS. While I am far from an expert I did pursue law for several years and one of the first fundamentals I was taught in LAW 101 is the very foundation of the legal system is precedent, or settled law. Everything that follows is built upon settled law. This SCOTUS clearly disagrees with that and appears totally willing to do whatever they want no matter how established a prior ruling has become.

      As for this case, you are right that Colorado likely does not matter but I believe a swing state like Michigan is yet tbd. While they do not have a statute like Colorado that can be used to keep a candidate off a primary ballot, my understanding is they do have a statute that can be used to keep a candidate off the presidential ballot and can yet be enacted if Colorado’s ruling is affirmed

    3. Joe B. – it not up to a few democrats to make that decision for the Republicans.

      Also, I know I don’t watch news every day, but did I miss the part where Trump was charged, tried, and convicted of insurrection? I’d bet there are a few people in this country that believe (right or wrong) that Biden is guilty of treason. Should he be barred from ballots though he has not been charged, tried, and convicted?

      That is the problem when zealots [either left or right wing] choose not to follow the established rules.

    4. Read more history and the actual text.

      If the 14th Amendment required conviction, why did former Confederates who hadn’t been convicted have to petition for Congress to pardon them so they could be elected to Congress?

      I mean, worry not. The originalists will show their true colors. Just don’t act surprised when Trump claims the 22nd Amendment doesn’t apply to him.

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