Former President Donald Trump, the front-running GOP candidate for president in 2024, looks on during a campaign event on Dec. 19, 2023 in Waterloo, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images)
Attorneys for former President Donald Trump on Wednesday formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review last month’s historic ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that the 2024 Republican frontrunner should be barred from the state’s ballot under a Civil War-era insurrection clause.
Trump’s petition for a writ of certiorari — a formal order for a case to be heard before the Supreme Court — is separate from an appeal filed on Dec. 28 by the Colorado Republican Party, which is also a party to the case. It also follows two earlier briefs supporting an expedited review from the plaintiffs who brought the case in Colorado in September and from Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who was named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
A U.S. Supreme Court review has been widely anticipated following the Colorado Supreme Court’s seismic Dec. 19 ruling, in which a 4-3 majority of the court’s justices sided with the plaintiffs’ argument that Trump’s actions in relation to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol disqualify him from office under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Section 3 of the amendment, ratified in the wake of the Civil War but enforced only a handful of times in the last 150 years, prohibits a person who took an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” from holding office again.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
The court’s ruling, together with a second order barring Trump from the ballot by Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows on Dec. 28, has been harshly criticized by top Republicans, including Trump’s rivals for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
In their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump’s attorneys write the Colorado ruling undermines a “fundamental principle of our representative democracy.”
“Colorado’s ruling is not and cannot be correct,” Trump’s petition says. “This Court should grant certiorari to consider this question of paramount importance, summarily reverse the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling, and return the right to vote for their candidate of choice to the voters.”
Trump was indicted earlier this year by federal prosecutors who allege that his “pervasive and destabilizing lies” about the results of the 2020 election “targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government.” Since announcing that he would seek the presidency again in 2024, he has maintained a substantial polling lead over his rivals for the GOP nomination.
Six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters, backed by the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed their lawsuit against Trump and Griswold in September. An initial ruling by a Denver District Court judge rejected the plaintiffs’ case, endorsing a theory advanced by Trump’s team and a handful of conservative legal scholars who argue that Section 3’s reference to “officer(s) of the United States” does not include the president.
The Colorado Supreme Court’s majority opinion overturned that finding, ruling that the claim “that Section 3 disqualifies every oathbreaking insurrectionist except the most powerful one … (is) inconsistent with the plain language and history of Section 3.”
The 43-page brief filed by Trump’s team on Wednesday revives the argument that the president is excluded from disqualification under the insurrection clause, along with what it calls “many other grounds for reversal,” including claims that the clause requires an act of Congress to be enforced, that the Jan. 6 attack was not an “insurrection” and that Trump did not “engage” in insurrection.
The Colorado Supreme Court stayed its decision pending a likely U.S. Supreme Court appeal, meaning that Trump’s name will still appear on GOP primary ballots unless the court denies the petitions for certiorari before Colorado’s Jan. 5 ballot certification deadline.
All parties to the case have urged the Supreme Court to fast-track proceedings ahead of a busy 2024 primary calendar, with similar challenges to Trump’s ballot eligibility pending in at least a dozen other states. Following Trump’s appeal, Griswold again called on the court to “consider the case as quickly as possible.”
“Coloradans — and the American people — deserve clarity on whether someone who engaged in insurrection may run for the country’s highest office,” Griswold said in a press release.
Colorado’s 2024 presidential primary is scheduled for “Super Tuesday,” March 5.
Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: [email protected]. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.