Justices Appear Ready to Side With Trump in Colorado Ballot Case

February 8, 2024 by Tom Ramstack
Justices Appear Ready to Side With Trump in Colorado Ballot Case
Myra Slotnick of Provincetown, Mass., holds placards in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — The conservative majority on the Supreme Court signaled Thursday that former President Donald Trump is likely to win against Colorado’s effort to keep him off the state’s ballot.

“It just doesn’t seem like a state call,” said Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

The Supreme Court heard attorneys’ arguments on whether to uphold a Dec. 19, 2023, decision by the Colorado Supreme Court that disqualified Trump from running for president in the state.

The state Supreme Court invoked authority under the U.S. Constitution’s insurrection clause, saying that by inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, Trump should be banned from the presidency.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bans anyone from holding federal office who “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States.

The Colorado Supreme Court also claimed authority under the constitutional right of states to decide how they conduct elections.

Much of the argument during the U.S. Supreme Court hearing focused on state authority over federal elected officials.

“By engaging in insurrection against the Constitution, President Trump disqualified himself from holding public office,” said Jason Murray, an attorney representing Colorado voters who sued to remove Trump from the ballot.

He described the Section 3 insurrection clause as a “safety valve” to protect the nation from uprisings.

“The Constitution does not require that he be given a second chance,” Murray said.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh told Murray, “Your argument has the effect of disenfranchising voters to a significant degree.”

The three liberal justices, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor, indicated the president should get no greater privileges than any other political candidate.

“There are a whole lot of examples of states relying on Section 3 for states disqualifying insurrectionists,” Sotomayor said.

She mentioned the example of Confederate soldiers who many states disqualified from elections after the Civil War.

Trump attorney Jonathan Mitchell argued the insurrection clause does not apply to elected politicians, only appointed officials.

“In this case, the Colorado Supreme Court is going slightly beyond what the Constitution requires,” Mitchell said.

In addition to exceeding state authority, the Colorado ruling “would violate the vote of tens of millions of Americans,” Mitchell said.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision is expected within days to weeks.

After the hearing, Trump held a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to go through the thing like that,” Trump said. “I consider it to be more election interference by the Democrats. That’s what they’re doing. Good news is, we’re leading virtually every poll.”

He was pleased with his attorney’s presentation, saying, “I think it was well received, I hope it was well received.”

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