In December 2023, Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled Trump ineligible for the state’s 2024 election ballot. The decision marks the first time in history that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment has been used to disqualify a presidential candidate.
Trump appealed the decision and the Supreme Court agreed to take the case. The 9 justices will have the final say on whether Trump should be barred from holding future office because of his role in the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.
The Court expedited the proceedings, with oral arguments set for February 8. All parties had emphasized the urgency of the situation.
Norma Anderson, a former Republican Colorado legislative leader, and the five other GOP voters who initiated the case against Trump, are pressing for a decision by February 11, just before Colorado's scheduled mailing of primary ballots on February 12. The Colorado Republican Committee, which supports Trump, has requested a ruling by at least March 5, the deadline for ballot submissions in the state, which coincides with Super Tuesday, when numerous other states conduct their primaries.
The Court held their first in-person meeting on January 5, 2024 in a small conference room adjacent to Chief Justice John Roberts' chambers, in which they deliberated on several cases, including whether or not Trump is eligible for the 2024 election.
The Legal Arguments
Donald Trump's legal filing denied the 2020 presidential election results that led to Joe Biden assuming the presidency. Trump's legal team argued before the Supreme Court, emphasizing, "In 2020, President Trump received more than 74 million votes nationally, and more than 1.3 million votes in Colorado alone, to be reelected as President of the United States."
Furthermore, Trump cited protests in Portland, Oregon, during 2020 as a basis for his contention that the events of January 6 did not constitute an "insurrection." He argued, "(T)he United States has a long history of political protests that have turned violent.”
The Colorado Supreme Court's prior decision, which Trump is challenging, contended that the 14th Amendment's section disqualifies him from appearing on state ballots.
Various lower court judges have previously found that Trump's words on January 6 amounted to incitement of violence when he encouraged his supporters to "fight like hell" to "take back our country."
The ongoing legal challenges against Trump have extended beyond Colorado, with similar cases emerging in Illinois and Massachusetts, underscoring the national significance of this legal battle.
This election year has elevated the stakes significantly. The magnitude of the Trump ballot controversy surpasses previous election disputes and draws parallels to the pivotal 2000 case that determined the Florida electors, resulting in George W. Bush becoming president.
Unlike the 2000 decision, which was confined to a specific case, the current case has far-reaching implications for future presidential candidates and former officeholders who may face accusations of insurrection. The contested section of the 14th Amendment states that no person who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States shall hold any office under the country. Core legal questions include whether Congress must pass legislation to enable states to enforce this provision and whether it applies to presidential candidates. A trial judge in Colorado initially ruled that the provision did not cover the presidency, but the Colorado Supreme Court reversed this determination.
The justices must also consider whether a challenge to a presidential candidate's qualifications presents a "political question" outside the judiciary's purview. Depending on their examination of the events of January 6, they may assess whether Trump's actions meet the definition of "insurrection."
At the outset, the justices are likely to narrow the focus of their inquiry, providing an initial indication of the scope of their ruling. Regardless of the outcome, the Supreme Court, under intensified public scrutiny, will play a central role in the unfolding drama of the 2024 election, not only in the immediate future but in the ensuing months as lower court litigation continues.