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Monday, March 4, 2024
Unanimous Supreme Court: Trump Stays on Ballot
By Court House News @ 3:12 PM :: 1433 Views :: Office of Elections, Republican Party

Trump wins Supreme Court fight over Colorado ballot disqualification

The high court’s ruling shuts down efforts across the country to disqualify the former president from the 2024 presidential election for his actions after losing the 2020 election.

by Kelsey Reichmann, Court House News, March 4, 2024

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court unanimously ruled to keep Donald Trump on Colorado’s ballot on Monday, finding that the state had no authority to disqualify the former president from the 2024 election.

“Because the Constitution makes Congress, rather than the States, responsible for enforcing Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates, we reverse,” the court wrote in a per curiam opinion. 

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson agreed with the judgment but said the court was departing from its role in only deciding the case before it. By doing so, the liberal justices said five of the court’s members insulated Trump from future controversy. 

“Even though ‘[a]ll nine members of the court’ agree that this independent and sufficient rationale resolves this case, five Justices go on,” the liberal justices wrote. “They decide novel constitutional questions to insulate this court and petitioner from future controversy.” 

Justice Amy Coney Barrett also wrote separately, agreeing with the court’s judgment but not joining the opinion. Barrett said the court should not have addressed whether federal legislation is the only way to enforce Section 3. 

Barrett criticized her colleagues for “amplifying disagreement,” suggesting that the court should have created the least controversial ruling possible. 

“The court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a presidential election,” the Trump appointee wrote. “Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the court should turn the national temperature down, not up.” 

Diverging from their normal practice, the justices did not take the bench to announce the ruling. 

Colorado used a Civil War-era law to disqualify Trump from its ballot. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prevents any oath-breaking officeholder from reentering service. The clause applies to members of Congress, state legislators, executive and judicial officers, or any officer of the United States. 

The court ruled that states could use Section 3 to disqualify state officeholders, but that authority does not extend to federal offices. 

“Because federal officers ‘'owe their existence and functions to the united voice of the whole, not of a portion, of the people,’' powers over their election and qualifications must be specifically ‘delegated to, rather than reserved by, the states,’” the majority wrote. 

The majority said Section 3 disqualification can only occur using congressional legislation. The liberal justices said this is where the court overstepped, claiming the court shut the door on any other federal enforcement of Section 3. 

“By resolving these and other questions, the majority attempts to insulate all alleged insurrectionists from future challenges to their holding federal office,” the liberal justices wrote. 

The liberal justices said the majority created novel rules for Section 3 enforcement, foreclosing any future efforts to disqualify presidential candidates. 

“In a sensitive case crying out for judicial restraint, it abandons that course,” the liberal justices wrote. 

Trump claimed Section 3 did not apply to him because presidents are not officers of the United States and do not take an oath to support the Constitution. The former president also claimed Colorado did not have the authority to use Section 3 without congressional approval. 

Republican voters in Colorado wanted Trump removed from the state’s presidential primary ballot for attempting to overturn the 2020 election. A state court held a trial, finding that the former president engaged in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. However, the court thought it did not have the authority to remove Trump from the ballot using Section 3. 

The Colorado Supreme Court took the step the lower court would not, ruling to remove Trump from the primary ballot. The state Republican party and Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the state court ruling, and the justices scheduled a special argument session to review the case

The voters defended the state court ruling before the high court, arguing that Trump disqualified himself by leading a violent attack on the Capitol and violating his oath to defend the Constitution. The voters said the framers implemented Section 3 to give states authority in scenarios like Trump’s, and that the clause applied to the country’s chief executive. 

Following the ruling, the group responsible for many of the ballot challenges to Trump's eligibility argued that the ruling was not a win for Trump. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington President Noah Bookbinder said the court ruled on technical legal grounds but did not exonerate Trump for his actions on Jan. 6, 2021.

"The Supreme Court removed an enforcement mechanism, and in letting Trump back on the ballot, they failed to meet the moment," Bookbinder said in a statement. "But it is now clear that Trump led the January 6th insurrection, and it will be up to the American people to ensure accountability.”

The court's ruling comes on the eve of Super Tuesday. Although voters will have little notice of Trump's eligibility, his name will still appear on ballots because the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling was put on pause while the justices decided this case.

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