More than a dozen attorneys general from Republican-controlled states topped a long list of parties who have filed briefs in a legal challenge to former President Donald Trump’s constitutional eligibility to appear on Colorado’s 2024 ballot.
The Colorado Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case this week, after a Denver District Court judge last month ruled against six voters who argue that Trump’s role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol disqualifies him from office under a Civil War-era insurrection clause.
Although Judge Sarah B. Wallace ruled that Trump “engaged in insurrection” within the meaning of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — which prohibits a person who did so after taking an oath to support the Constitution from holding office again — she wrote in her Nov. 17 ruling that the clause does not apply to the presidency.
The case was quickly appealed to the state’s highest court by both sides. The plaintiffs, who are backed by the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, say Wallace’s finding that Section 3’s reference to “officer(s) of the United States” does not include the president is “nonsensical.” Trump’s attorneys asked the Supreme Court to review a wide range of issues in the case, including the finding that the former president engaged in insurrection.
Ahead of the case being taken up by the Colorado Supreme Court, outside parties have filed amicus or friend-of-the-court briefs in support of either side. Similar efforts to block Trump’s 2024 candidacy have been filed in other states, and the issue is widely expected to ultimately be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A group of 19 Republican-leaning states, led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, urged the court to follow the example of other states, including Minnesota and Michigan, and reject the plaintiffs’ arguments.
“The 14th Amendment entrusts Insurrection Clause questions to Congress — not state officials or state courts,” the Nov. 29 brief states. “Allowing each state and its courts to determine eligibility using malleable standards would create an unworkable patchwork of eligibility requirements for President.”
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Rokita called challenges to Trump’s eligibility an “assault on our republic.” A former GOP member of Congress and close Trump ally, Rokita has repeated baseless conspiracy theories alleging widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Such claims have been repeatedly debunked by elections officials, experts, media investigations, law enforcement and the courts.
Trump was indicted in August by federal prosecutors who allege that his “pervasive and destabilizing lies” about the 2020 election “targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government.” Since announcing last year he would seek the presidency again in 2024, he has maintained a substantial polling lead over his rivals for the GOP nomination.
A group of 14 state Republican parties, led by the Kansas Republican Party, also filed a brief in support of Trump’s ballot eligibility. Echoing arguments made by the Colorado Republican Party, which has participated alongside Trump throughout the trial as a so-called intervenor, the state parties say that Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold serves only a “ministerial” role in certifying parties’ selected candidates to the ballot and has no authority to bar Trump unilaterally.
Attorneys representing Griswold, however, continued to dispute that claim in filings before the Supreme Court. Though Griswold has taken no official position on whether Trump is ineligible, the secretary of state’s office maintains that she has a clear responsibility under Colorado’s Election Code to ensure only candidates who are eligible to take office are placed on the ballot.
“The Secretary’s overriding concern is that Colorado courts and election officials continue to be empowered to ensure the integrity of the ballot,” the secretary of state’s brief says. “Colorado has not ceded its responsibility to ensure a fair and accurate ballot to political parties.”
The Republican secretaries of state of Ohio, Missouri and Wyoming filed a their own brief arguing Trump was “wrongfully” accused of engaging in an insurrection.
“This is a classic case of judicial overreach, and the (lower court judge’s) ruling in this case has no basis in law,” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said in a statement. “The district court’s order relies on flimsy and circumstantial evidence to reach a flawed conclusion with far-reaching implications both for the president’s own legal defense and for the broader democratic process of free and fair elections.”
A former Republican Colorado secretary of state, Mary Estill Buchanan, joined advocacy group Colorado Common Cause in an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs’ case, telling the court that “this country and its institutions are at a crossroads.”
“(Trump) allowed a lust for power to supersede his own Oath of Office and over two centuries of American political precedent. Mr. Trump has sought at every turn to inject chaos into our country’s electoral system in the upcoming 2024 presidential election,” the brief said. “He should be given no opportunity to do so in the state of Colorado.”
The state Supreme Court will hear two hours of oral argument in the case starting at 1 p.m. on Dec. 6.
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