Quentin Young, Colorado Newsline
December 28, 2023
The Colorado Republican Party has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that blocks former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 presidential ballot.
The party, which filed its appeal Wednesday in Anderson v. Griswold, argues that a majority on the Colorado Supreme Court erred in a historic 4-3 decision it issued Dec. 19.
“For the first time in American history, a former President has been disqualified from the ballot, a political party has been denied the opportunity to put forward the presidential candidate of its choice, and the voters have been denied the ability to choose their Chief Executive through the electoral process,” says the party’s writ of certiorari, a petition to the high court asking it to review the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court is widely expected to review the case, since the ruling has substantial nationwide implications, but it can decide not to.
Six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters, backed by the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a lawsuit in September alleging that Trump’s actions around the Jan. 6 insurrection disqualify him from office under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Section 3 of the amendment, ratified after the Civil War to deal with former Confederate figures, prohibits a person who “engaged in insurrection” after taking an oath to support the Constitution from holding office again.
The plaintiffs announced Thursday that they have filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court to expedite consideration of the GOP’s appeal.
“The Colorado Republican Party’s appeal of our clients’ case will address an issue of exceptional national importance — whether, as the Colorado Supreme Court found, a former president, and current candidate for office, who has engaged in insurrection against the Constitution is disqualified from holding office again,” attorney Sean Grimsley said in a statement.
A Denver District Court judge ruled that Trump did engage in insurrection, but she said Section 3 does not apply to presidents. She adopted an understanding of Section 3, discredited by many top constitutional scholars, that Trump as president was not an “officer of the United States,” in the language of Section 3.
This is the primary argument the Colorado GOP makes in its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Section 3 covers many other offices, but the president is “different in a way that matters,” the appeal says.
“Only the President (and Vice-President) face nationwide electoral accountability,” the party said. “And if an electoral majority of the voters determine that they want a certain individual as Chief Executive, regardless of alleged or even actual past transgressions, that is their national choice under the Constitution.”
The Colorado plaintiffs named Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold as a defendant, since Griswold had not previously taken a position on whether to disqualify Trump. A Democrat and otherwise outspoken Trump critic, Griswold has since expressed approval of the Colorado Supreme Court ruling. On Thursday she urged the U.S. Supreme Court to “act quickly given the upcoming presidential primary election.”
The deadline for Griswold to certify names for the Colorado presidential primary ballot is Jan. 5.
“Donald Trump engaged in insurrection and was disqualified under the Constitution from the Colorado Ballot. The Colorado Supreme Court got it right,” Griswold said in a statement.
Griswold said that, with the GOP’s appeal, the primary ballot will include Trump’s name as of Jan. 5 “unless the U.S. Supreme Court declines to take the case or otherwise affirms the Colorado Supreme Court ruling.”
Beside claiming that a president is not a Section 3 “officer,” the Colorado Republican Party’s appeal argues that Section 3 is not “self-executing” without enforcement legislation from Congress and that the Colorado ruling violates the state GOP’s First Amendment right of freedom of association.
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