The Supreme Court Restores Donald Trump’s Eligibility to Run for Office

Mon Mar 04 2024
Ramesh Sridharan (922 articles)
The Supreme Court Restores Donald Trump’s Eligibility to Run for Office

After a Colorado court disqualified Trump for his role in the Capitol attack, the justices reversed the decision. The decision that restored former president Donald Trump’s name to Colorado’s ballot and ended similar challenges to his candidacy elsewhere was made possible by Monday’s unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court that states lack the power to reject presidential candidates on the grounds they engaged in rebellion or insurrection against the U.S.

The unsigned ruling ends a chain of state-level challenges against Trump’s eligibility for reelection as president based on a long-dormant constitutional clause prohibiting the continuation of office for previous officials who participated in revolt or insurgency.

The court ruled that the responsibility for enforcing the disqualification provision, which is part of the 14th Amendment, on federal officeholders and candidates should lie with Congress and not with the states.

The court warned that a national election could be thrown off course if presidential candidate eligibility were to be determined on a state-by-state basis.

The court stated that it was possible for a candidate to be deemed ineligible in some states but not others due to their actions.

While all nine justices reached a unanimous decision that Trump should be on the ballot, four of them expressed their disagreement with the majority’s interpretation of the insurrection clause, arguing in separate opinions that it went too far. Criticizing the majority for needlessly protecting Trump “from future controversy,” the three liberal justices on the court were incisive.

Trump appointee Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was also not thrilled with the judgment, emphasized that the court had reached a consensus on the final result in response. She emphasized that the lesson should be taken home by Americans in her writing.

The president lauded Monday’s ruling as historic while addressing at his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, saying it will be talked about in 100 and 200 years.The Supreme Court recognized that voters can remove candidates “very quickly,” but a state court shouldn’t do it, according to Trump.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the organization that spearheaded the Colorado lawsuit, claimed that Trump’s victory was based on technicalities. U.S. citizens must take responsibility, according to CREW President Noah Bookbinder.

On behalf of a coalition of Colorado Republicans and independents, the complaint asserted that Trump should be disqualified for inciting the mob of his followers to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an effort to block congressional certification of President Biden’s 2020 election triumph. The state’s highest court reached the same conclusion in a December ruling.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday to overturn a lower court’s decision in a Trump-related lawsuit was only the beginning. The court have set April for oral argument regarding Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution for crimes he allegedly committed while in office, as announced last week. Additionally, it is evaluating the applicability of an obstruction allegation brought against rioters and Trump on January 6th to the assault on the Capitol.

A political and ideological spectrum of law professors and Trump detractors rallied behind the effort to disqualify Trump. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which incorporated numerous goals of the Union into the Constitution following the ratification of the Civil War, formed the basis for this. One of them was making it impossible for corrupt officials to run for office again. There is scant precedence on the proper application of the restriction because Congress granted a respite to the majority of ex-Confederates in 1872.

Not only did the secretary of state in Maine remove Trump’s name from the ballot in that state, but a state judge in Illinois just ruled that Trump ought to be disqualified, dismissing the state elections board’s decision. Other states have been experiencing a succession of difficulties. It wasn’t their job to rule that Republican front-runner Donald Trump was ineligible, therefore several officials and judges chose not to.

Whether or not Trump committed acts of insurrection was not decided upon by the Supreme Court in its decision. Whoever gets to make that decision was instead the main point.

“It is simply implausible” that the states have more authority than Congress to determine the enforcement of Section 3 with regard to federal positions, the court stated.

New Mexico has previously removed a county commissioner who was involved in the attack on January 6 from office, since the court ruled that states had the authority to do so in cases of insurrection.

Full opinion majority: Chief Justice John Roberts with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh.

Following the majority’s indication that it thought Congress should enact legislation to outline processes for executing Section 3, the court fractured.

The ruling didn’t have to go that far, according to three liberal justices—Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson. They said that other ways of government enforcement, such as by federal judges, were rendered moot by such reasoning.

This case goes beyond what is necessary to limit how Section 3 can prevent an oathbreaking insurrectionist from becoming president, according to the liberals’ statement.

“This is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency,” Barrett said in her concurring opinion, noting that the court was dealing with “a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election.”

“Writings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up,” she said, emphasizing the fact that the situation calls for it.

In his bid to remain in office following the 2020 election loss, Trump has faced numerous federal and state charges. However, he remains unindicted for the specific criminal offense of rebellion, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years and an automatic prohibition on holding federal office.

Among the four criminal indictments against the ex-president is one in a federal court in the nation’s capital that pertains to his conduct following the election. A number of charges were leveled against him by special counsel Jack Smith, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and interference with voting rights.

Whether or not that case will proceed to trial is unclear. On Trump’s assertions of immunity from prosecution, the Supreme Court is anticipated to make a ruling before July.

Trump is set to face trial in New York later in March on state felony charges related to the forgery of company papers to conceal payments made to a porn star as hush money before to the 2016 presidential campaign.

In every instance, the ex-president denies any misconduct. After receiving Trump’s appeal in the ballot battle in Colorado, the Supreme Court expedited the case’s processing.

Some, like Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah), were already claiming that the pro-Trump mob’s violence at the Capitol on January 6 was an insurrection, and 14th Amendment experts were arguing about whether or not the Section 3 disqualification requirement was relevant.

Last August, a pair of conservative law professors named William Baude and Michael Paulsen published an academic article claiming that Trump’s efforts to halt the transfer of power were within the scope of Section 3, and that state officials could enforce the restriction even in the absence of explicit congressional authorization. This lends credence to the effort to apply the provision to Trump.

State district judge in Denver decided that Trump had incited an insurrection on January 6 after a five-day hearing, but she ruled that Section 3 did not extend to the presidency.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the Colorado Supreme Court sided with the voters in a 4-3 decision, ruling that Trump had committed rebellion and that it would be ridiculous to disqualify all public officials save the president.

On Monday, the judgment “has effectively turned Section 3 of the 14th Amendment into a dead letter” until Congress acts, according to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D., Md.), who was a member of the House Jan. 6 Committee.

To allow the attorney general or private persons to sue in federal court to disqualify candidates under the insurrection clause, Raskin co-sponsored a failed bill in 2022. The ruling on Monday, he argued, has increased the urgency of such legislation.

Although the court’s finding disqualified Trump, lead plaintiff Norma Anderson—a former Republican majority leader of the Colorado Senate—said she was delighted she sued in the first place.

“At least we opened some eyes,” the 91-year-old Anderson stated. “Overcoming him will require tremendous effort from all of us.”

Ramesh Sridharan

Ramesh Sridharan

Ramesh Sridharan is our Stock Market Correspondent covering events and daily movements of stock markets in Asia. He is based in Mumbai