POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

LISTEN: Constitutional law expert helps interpret Colorado Supreme Court ruling on Trump

Dec 19, 2023, 4:22 PM | Updated: May 28, 2024, 10:53 am

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Iowa GOP's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines on July 28. Pho...

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Iowa GOP's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines on July 28. Photo credit: Scott Morgan/Reuters

Here’s our live interview 👇 with constitutional law expert, and attorney Pat Shea.


 

Originally Published: 19 DEC 23 18:10 ET
Updated: 19 DEC 23 18:18 ET

(CNN) — In a stunning and unprecedented decision, the Colorado Supreme Court removed former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 ballot, ruling that he isn’t an eligible presidential candidate because of the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.”

The ruling was 4-3.

The ruling will be placed on hold pending appeal until January 4.

The state Supreme Court decision only applies to Colorado but the historic ruling will roil the 2024 presidential campaign. It tees up an appeal to the US Supreme Court, which could settle the matter for the entire nation. Colorado election officials have said the matter needs to be settled by January 5, which is the statutory deadline to set the list of candidates for the GOP primary.

Ratified after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment says officials who take an oath to support the Constitution are banned from future office if they “engaged in insurrection.” But the wording is vague, it doesn’t explicitly mention the presidency, and has only been applied twice since 1919.

All seven justices on the Colorado Supreme Court were appointed by Democratic governors. Six of the seven subsequently won statewide retention elections to stay on the bench. The seventh was only appointed in 2021 and hasn’t yet faced voters.

Trump denies wrongdoing regarding January 6 and has decried the 14th Amendment lawsuits as an abuse of the legal process. He is under federal and state indictment in connection with his attempts to overturn the 2020 election – and he has pleaded not guilty.

On the campaign trail, Trump has derided the lawsuits and argued that they are an attempt to use the courts to stop him from returning to the White House while he is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Key findings

The court issued several key findings in its sweeping decision:

• Colorado state law allows voters to challenge Trump’s eligibility under the federal constitution’s “insurrectionist ban.”

• Colorado courts can enforce the ban without any action from Congress.

• The insurrectionist ban applies to the presidency.

• The January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol was an insurrection.

• Trump “engaged in” the insurrection.

• Trump’s speech “inciting the crowd” on January 6 was “not protected by the First Amendment.”

The ruling comes as a similar appeal is pending in Michigan, where Trump also prevailed. He has beaten back 14th Amendment challenges in several key states, while the challengers have pledged to keep fighting in the courts potentially even after the 2024 presidential election, if he wins.

A group of Republican and independent voters filed the lawsuit, in coordination with a liberal government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. A district judge held a weeklong trial and issued a stunning ruling in November that labeled Trump as an insurrectionist but said the presidency is exempt from the vague ban in the 14th Amendment.

The Colorado Supreme Court held oral arguments earlier this month, where the justices appeared divided at times. Some of their questions suggested they were open to the idea that the ban applies to Trump, while at other times, some justices were unsure if the trial court even had jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter in the first place.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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LISTEN: Constitutional law expert helps interpret Colorado Supreme Court ruling on Trump