Former President Donald Trump cannot appear on the ballot in Colorado in next year’s presidential election due to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, the state’s top court ruled Tuesday in a historic judgment that is likely to find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 4-3 ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court makes Trump the first presidential candidate in U.S. history to be deemed ineligible for the White House under a rarely used provision of the U.S. Constitution that bars officials who have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” from holding office.
That provoked a strongly worded attack on the ruling from the Trump 2024 campaign:
“Unsurprisingly, the all-Democrat appointed Colorado Supreme Court has ruled against President Trump, supporting a Soros-funded, left-wing group’s scheme to interfere in an election on behalf of Crooked Joe Biden by removing President Trump’s name from the ballot and eliminating the rights of Colorado voters to vote for the candidate of their choice.”
The court concluded that the U.S. Constitution bars the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024 from appearing on the ballot because of his role instigating violence against the U.S. government.
“We do not reach these conclusions lightly,” the majority justices wrote. “We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”
The Colorado court said the ruling is stayed until Jan. 4, 2024, to allow for appeals.
One of the dissenting justices, Carlos Samour, said in a lengthy opinion that a lawsuit is not a fair mechanism for determining Trump’s eligibility for the ballot because it deprives him of his right to due process, noting that a jury has not convicted him of insurrection.
“Even if we are convinced that a candidate committed horrible acts in the past – dare I say, engaged in insurrection – there must be procedural due process before we can declare that individual disqualified from holding public office,” Samour said.
The ruling applies only to the state’s March 5 Republican primary, but its conclusion would likely also affect Trump’s status for the Nov. 5 general election. Nonpartisan U.S. election forecasters view Colorado as safely Democratic, meaning that President Joe Biden will likely carry the state regardless of Trump’s fate.
The case was brought by a group of Colorado voters, aided by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who argued that Trump should be disqualified for inciting his supporters to attack the Capitol in a failed attempt to obstruct the transfer of presidential power to Biden after the 2020 election.
In its statement, Trump’s campaign vowed a swift appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, expressing optimism it would speedily rule against an “un-American lawsuit.’
It said: “Democrat Party leaders are in a state of paranoia over the growing, dominant lead President Trump has amassed in the polls. They have lost faith in the failed Biden presidency and are now doing everything they can to stop the American voters from throwing them out of office next November. The Colorado Supreme Court issued a completely flawed decision tonight and we will swiftly file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court and a concurrent request for a stay of this deeply undemocratic decision. We have full confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court will quickly rule in our favor and finally put an end to these un-American lawsuits.”
The decision is a victory for advocacy groups and anti-Trump voters who have mounted several similar legal challenges to Trump’s candidacy under section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was enacted after the Civil War.
The decision reverses a ruling by a lower court judge who found Trump engaged in insurrection by inciting his supporters to violence, but, as president, Trump was not an “officer of the United States” who could be disqualified under the amendment.
A lawyer for Trump argued that the riot at the Capitol was not serious enough to qualify as an insurrection and that Trump’s remarks to his supporters in Washington that day were protected by his right to free speech. The lawyer contended that courts do not have the authority to order Trump removed from the ballot.
Advocates have hoped to use the case to boost a wider disqualification effort and potentially put the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees.
“The court’s decision today affirms what our clients alleged in this lawsuit: that Donald Trump is an insurrectionist who disqualified himself from office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment based on his role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol, and that Secretary Griswold must keep him off of Colorado’s primary ballot. It is not only historic and justified, but is necessary to protect the future of democracy in our country,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder.
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