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March 04, 2024 10:14 AM UTC

SCOTUS Rules Trump Eligible, Leaves Crucial Insurrection Finding Intact

  • by: Colorado Pols
Inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021.

Colorado Newsline’s Chase Woodruff reports this morning, it’s the outcome overwhelmingly expected after tough oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court last month–with Justices ruling unanimously that the state of Colorado cannot itself enforce the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution barring individuals who have engaged in insurrection from running for federal office.

“Because the Constitution makes Congress, rather than the States, responsible for enforcing Section 3 (of the 14th Amendment) against federal officeholders and candidates, we reverse,” justices wrote in the unsigned, “per curiam” opinion.

The ruling — which comes just one day before Colorado holds its presidential primary election on “Super Tuesday,” March 5 — brings an end to a six-month legal saga that began in Denver District Court and sent shockwaves through American politics during its fast-tracked ascent through the judicial system…

Though all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices agreed on the outcome of the case, the opinions released Monday show a divide over how far the court should have gone to settle key issues relating to the enforcement of Section 3.

The ruling restoring Trump to the ballot was unanimous, but the justices split on the question of whether Congress alone had the power to enforce the 14th Amendment. Dissenting Justices wrote that the majority was imposing “novel rules” on the enforcement of the 14th Amendment, and that their opinion could make future enforcement of the amendment impossible. But crucially, as Politico reports, the court completely sidestepped the underlying question of whether Trump engaged in insurrection to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential elections–as the Denver District Court established and the Colorado Supreme Court upheld:

The justices did not weigh in on the fraught question of whether Trump engaged in an insurrection by attempting to subvert the 2020 election results or stoking the violence on Jan. 6. But the high court ruled in an unsigned opinion that only Congress, not the states, can disqualify a presidential candidate under the Constitution’s “insurrection clause.”

The high court’s decision overturns a Colorado ruling that would have removed Trump from the ballot there. And it spells doom for a slew of other state-level challenges to Trump’s eligibility under an interpretation of a 14th Amendment clause that says that those who engaged in an “insurrection” after taking an oath to support the Constitution are disqualified from holding office again.

Although Trump won’t be disqualified from the ballot in Colorado or anywhere else due to a state-based challenge to his eligibility under the 14th Amendment, the finding by Colorado courts that Trump engaged in insurrection has not been struck down on the merits. Plaintiffs seeking Trump’s disqualification are calling the court’s narrow ruling a moral victory, one that may have consequences in the criminal trials underway against Trump for the same actions:

Plaintiffs were able to make a compelling case that Trump had engaged in insurrection, and the failure to specifically refute that contention in today’s SCOTUS ruling keeps hope alive that Trump may at some point be convicted in one of the related criminal prosecutions underway against him–pending the separate but related decision on Trump’s extreme assertions of presidential immunity set to be argued late next month. Even those of us who agreed on principle with the goals of this case knew that it was very unlikely to succeed if it made it to Trump’s skewed SCOTUS, and were surprised when the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s ruling that although Trump had participated in insurrection, the 14th Amendment didn’t apply to the President.

The showdown in November between Trump and Biden that now appears inevitable was most likely always the only way the question could be resolved, given Trump’s political resurgence despite actions that were once condemned by both parties. A court ruling disqualifying the Republican frontrunner would never be accepted by Trump’s diehard supporters, most of whom not coincidentally don’t accept election results they don’t like either.

And so, informed by the unrefuted findings by Colorado courts documenting Trump’s crimes against democracy, voters will decide–again–the question of Trump’s fitness for office.

Though not a victory, history will hopefully one day record that it helped make a difference.


4 thoughts on “SCOTUS Rules Trump Eligible, Leaves Crucial Insurrection Finding Intact

  1. A state may not remove a candidate from the ballot because he has engaged in insurrection. However, a state political party can keep a candidate off the ballot because he falils to pay the party $40,000.

    Do I understand this correctly? Surely not.

    1. A state may not remove a candidate from a federal office based on the ruling.  But likely can remove a candidate for a state office. 

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