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Key Takeaways From 14th Amendment Case Aimed at Banning Trump From Ballot

During the proceedings, the justices raised questions regarding whether the framers of the 14th Amendment had indeed intended to grant states more authority in the aftermath of the Civil War, a time when the federal government sought to rein in former Confederate states.

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court showcased evident skepticism towards a Colorado Supreme Court ruling intending to exclude former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 GOP primary ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

In the landmark case of Trump v. Anderson, spanning over two hours of oral argument, all nine justices conveyed doubt regarding a state’s jurisdiction to disqualify a federal office candidate from the ballot on grounds of being labeled an “insurrectionist.”

“This doesn’t seem within a state’s purview,” remarked Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

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“Why should one state hold the power to make such a determination not just for its own constituents, but for the entire country?” questioned Justice Elena Kagan.

Though the final ruling of the court cannot always be determined based solely on oral arguments, indications suggest that a majority of the justices are inclined to overturn the Colorado decision. This suggests a potential end to nationwide endeavors aiming to disqualify Trump under the seldom-invoked, century-and-a-half-old constitutional provision.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was crafted in the aftermath of the Civil War with the aim of prohibiting former Confederates from occupying positions within the government. Its language stipulates that individuals who previously pledged an oath as an “officer of the United States” and subsequently participated in insurrection are barred from holding office “under the United States” thereafter.

According to the amendment, only Congress has the power to lift the disqualification through a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate. However, it does not specify who determines what constitutes “engaging in insurrection” or how this determination is made. Remarkably, the nation’s highest court has never previously examined this matter.

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During the proceedings, Justice Brett Kavanaugh emphasized the significance of the term “insurrection” in Section 3, raising questions about its definition and the process for determining whether someone has engaged in it. He pondered over who holds the authority to make such determinations and what appropriate processes should be followed in such cases.

Throughout the argument, the justices, in a packed courtroom, grappled with the issue of enforcement of Section 3 and whether individual states possess any authority to enforce it independently.

Trump’s attorney, Jonathan F. Mitchell, argued that affirming the decision below would not only infringe upon constitutional term limits but also disenfranchise potentially tens of millions of American voters.

While the attorneys representing Colorado voters contesting Trump’s eligibility consistently brought up specifics regarding the former president’s endeavors to overturn the 2020 election results, the justices mainly avoided delving into those details or the merits of the Colorado ruling.

Instead, their focus centered on the practical implications of granting each state the authority to determine a presidential candidate’s eligibility under Section 3, as well as the unique role that the Constitution explicitly grants Congress in that amendment—specifically, the power to lift an insurrectionist’s disqualification through a vote.

Justice Neil Gorsuch inquired whether Section 3 was the sole type of disqualification that Congress could repeal. “It’s the only one like that, right?” he asked.

Several justices expressed concern about the potential chaos if each state could establish its own standard for defining “engaging in insurrection.”

“The issue of who can enforce Section 3, particularly concerning a presidential candidate— the ramifications of what the Colorado Supreme Court has done, as some argue, would be quite significant,” remarked Justice Samuel Alito.

“It would seem to me … if the Colorado position is upheld, surely there will be disqualification proceedings on the other side. Some of those succeed. Some of them will have different standards of proof. Some of them will have different views about evidence,” Chief Justice Roberts added.

During the proceedings, the justices raised questions regarding whether the framers of the 14th Amendment had indeed intended to grant states more authority in the aftermath of the Civil War, a time when the federal government sought to rein in former Confederate states.

Historical context played a significant role in the debate, with even some of the court’s more liberal members referring to records from the founding era to cast doubt on the notion that presidents and potential presidents were encompassed under Section 3.

“I guess my question is why the framers would have designed a system that could result in this uniformity in this way when we have pending elections, different states suddenly saying you were eligible…,” pondered Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The argument unfolded within a courtroom fortified with layers of additional security due to the significance of the case. Outside the court, the atmosphere remained relatively tranquil, with minimal signs of widespread demonstrations or disruptions.

While the former president was not present in the chamber, the historic occasion drew the attendance of the wives of many justices, in accordance with tradition, as well as the Solicitor General of the United States, Elizabeth Prelogar.

 

SourceABC News

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