Former President Donald Trump has moved to resolve the question of whether he is legally permitted to appear on the GOP presidential primary ballot in the United States through his challenging of the Colorado decision. Late Wednesday, January 3, Trump’s legal team released an appeal that appears intended to head to the US Supreme Court asking that the Colorado Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision to bar him from ballot access under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment be overturned. Despite the document now being in the public sphere, it has yet (at the time of publishing) to appear on the official Supreme Court pertinent docket.
The question being asked of SCOTUS is “Did the Colorado Supreme Court err in ordering President Trump excluded from the 2024 presidential primary ballot?”
A Choice for People, Not Courts
Trump’s lawyers argue that not only was the decision to remove him unprecedented, but it also goes against the fundamental underpinnings of the Constitution, and that “the people should choose whom they please to govern them.” The appeal presents four key arguments.
The first salvo claims that “The question of eligibility to serve as President of the United States is properly reserved for Congress, not the state courts.” By by making its contentious ruling, the Trump legal team argues, the Colorado Supreme Court “arrogated Congress’ authority.”
Next up is the argument that even if the Colorado judges could take it upon themselves to decide eligibility, they “misapplied the law.” This argument follows the idea that President Trump was not an “officer” of the United States and that he took a different oath to other elected officials. Therefore, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment does not apply. The relevant clause reads:
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
His team then makes the case that the Colorado judges “erred in how it described President Trump’s role in the events of January 6, 2021.” The appeal says that the events of the day were not an “insurrection” and that President Trump “in no way ‘engaged’ in ‘insurrection.’” This coincides with a number of arguments that have been made by others defending Trump from the claims of Colorado and Maine, who insist that since no jury has ever found Trump guilty of insurrection, for the former president to be punished for it is a miscarriage of justice.
Finally, the appeal argues the events that took place in the Colorado Supreme Court were “premature” and that they “violated the Electors Clause.”
Trump Paints a Picture
The appeal outlines numerous claims that the Colorado Supreme Court failed to apply its state laws regarding hearings and appeals; it also lists a string of violations regarding the use and admittance of evidence. It certainly is compelling reading, but will the US Supreme Court justices be swayed?
While the Colorado decision is one of only two successful attempts so far to remove Donald Trump from the ballot, a bright-line ruling from SCOTUS could fend off further challenges – of which there are at least a dozen more waiting in the wings. However, the high court might decide to rule on various aspects of the appeal and dismiss others, leaving a patchwork footpath for litigants across the country to follow.