World

Justices skeptical of 14th Amendment case banning Trump from ballot: Key takeaways


The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday appeared highly critical of a Colorado Supreme Court decision that would ban former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 GOP primary ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

During more than two hours of oral argument in the historic case Trump v. Anderson, each of the court’s nine justices expressed skepticism that an individual state has the authority to deny a candidate for federal office from the ballot as an “insurrectionist.”

While the court’s ultimate decision is not always clear based on the questions raised during a hearing, it appeared likely that a majority of the court is ready to reverse the Colorado decision and put an end to efforts nationwide seeking to disqualify Trump under the rarely used, 150-year-old Constitutional provision.

PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court is seen, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington.

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was drafted after the Civil War to prevent former Confederates from holding positions across government. It reads no person who took an oath as an “officer of the United States” who then “engaged in insurrection” can hold an office “under the United States” in the future.

Only Congress, it adds, can remove the disqualification by two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate. It does not spell out who gets to decide when someone has “engaged in insurrection” or how. The nation’s highest court has never before examined the issue.

The justices spent nearly the entire argument before a packed courtroom grappling with who enforces Section 3 and whether states have any authority to do so on their own.

PHOTO: Anti-Trump demonstrators protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court considers whether former President Donald Trump is eligible to run for president in the 2024 election, Feb, 8, 2024, in Washington.

Anti-Trump demonstrators protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court considers whether former President Donald Trump is eligible to run for president in the 2024 election, Feb, 8, 2024, in Washington.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

While the counsel for Colorado voters challenging Trump’s eligibility repeatedly raised details of the former president’s efforts to overturn results of the 2020 election, the justices largely refrained from engaging with those facts or the merits of the Colorado ruling.

Instead, they zeroed in on the practical consequences of allowing each state to decide a presidential candidate’s eligibility under Section 3 and the unique role that the Constitution explicitly gives Congress in that amendment — namely, the right to remove an insurrectionist’s disability with a vote.

Several justices voiced concern that chaos would ensue if each state could develop its own standard for “engaging in insurrection.”

PHOTO: Protesters demonstrate outside of the U.S. Supreme Court, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington.

Protesters demonstrate outside of the U.S. Supreme Court, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington.

Julia Nikhinson/Getty Images

On several occasions, the justices questioned whether the framers of the 14th Amendment had truly intended to give states more power in the aftermath of the Civil War when the federal government was trying to rein in former Confederate states.

History factored prominently in the debate, with even some of the court’s most liberal members referencing founding-era records to cast doubt on the idea that presidents and potential presidents were covered under Section 3.

The argument played out inside a court chamber shrouded in layers of extra security given the magnitude of the case. Outside the court, the scene was relatively quiet with little sign of widespread demonstrations or disruption.

The former president was not present in the chamber. But given the historic nature of the day, the wives of many of the justices were in attendance, as per tradition, as well as the Solicitor General of the United States Elizabeth Prelogar.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button