The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals in a 14th Amendment challenge to former President Donald Trump’s candidacy and scheduled oral arguments for December 6.
Trump’s team and the group trying to remove him from the Colorado ballot based on the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban” appealed different parts of last week’s lower-court ruling, which found that Trump “engaged in an insurrection” on January 6, 2021, but that the ban doesn’t apply to the presidency.
Many experts believe the case, which was brought by Republican and independent voters in coordination with a liberal-leaning watchdog group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, will eventually reach the US Supreme Court in some fashion.
Colorado District Court Judge Sarah Wallace issued a stunning 102-page decision Friday, that found Trump “engaged in an insurrection” on January 6, 2021, but concluded that the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban” doesn’t apply to presidents, based on the text of the amendment, which was ratified in 1868 in the wake of the Civil War.
It says American officials who take an oath to support the Constitution are banned from future office if they “engaged in insurrection.” The provision explicitly bans insurrectionists from serving as US senators, representatives and even presidential electors – but it does not say anything about the presidency. It says it covers “any office, civil or military, under the United States,” and Wallace ruled that this does not include the office of the presidency.
That key finding is what the anti-Trump challengers hope the Colorado Supreme Court will overturn.
“No court should adopt an interpretation of the Constitution that has such absurd results,” the challengers wrote in their appeal filing. “Fortunately, in this case, the text and history all comport with the common-sense outcome. Section 3 does not disqualify oath-breaking insurrectionists from nearly all public offices except the highest one, nor does it give a unique free pass to insurrectionist Presidents.”
All seven justices on the Colorado Supreme Court were appointed by Democratic governors. Six of the seven subsequently won statewide retention elections to stay on the bench. The seventh was only appointed in 2021 and hasn’t faced voters yet.
Sean Grimsley, an attorney for the anti-Trump challengers, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday that he was “hopeful” his appeal will prevail in overturning the “one issue” that the judge “got wrong” about who the ban does – and doesn’t – apply to.
“We’re going to pursue our claims in court. I think we put on a very good case, the judge issued a very detailed and thorough opinion – it took until page 95 of a 102-page opinion for her to rule against us on anything, so we’re just going to continue forward. We’re going to go to the Colorado Supreme Court and see what happens there.”
In other portions of Wallace’s ruling, she offered a searing condemnation of Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. She concluded that the former president “actively primed the anger of his extremist supporters” and “acted with the specific intent to incite political violence and direct it at the Capitol.”
“It was an outrageous attempt at disenfranchising millions and millions of voters by getting us thrown off the ballot,” Trump said Saturday at a campaign rally in Iowa. “We’ve now beat the radical Democrats’ election-rigging ballot qualification scam in Colorado and Michigan and Minnesota and New Hampshire and other states.”
Trump appeals as well
Trump also has appealed the decision, taking issue with several of the judge’s findings, including that he “engaged” in the January 6 insurrection.
Trump’s lawyers say Wallace reached the “correct” conclusion that the insurrectionist ban doesn’t apply to presidents.
However, they asked the Colorado Supreme Court to overturn her other decisions, arguing she “committed multiple grave jurisdictional and legal errors … creating new, unprecedented, and unsupported legal standards in applying” the constitutional disqualification clause.
The lawyers said in a court filing that they want these matters corrected now because of the possibility of “further review” in the case, referring to the widely expected eventual appeals to the Supreme Court.
This headline and story have been been updated with additional developments.
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