A judge has rejected three more attempts by former President Donald Trump and the Colorado GOP to shut down a lawsuit seeking to block him from the 2024 presidential ballot in the state based on the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.”
The flurry of rulings late Friday from Colorado District Judge Sarah Wallace are a blow to Trump, who faces candidacy challenges in multiple states stemming from his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection. He still has a pending motion to throw out the Colorado lawsuit, but the case now appears on track for an unprecedented trail this month.
A post-Civil War provision of the 14th Amendment says US officials who take an oath to uphold the Constitution are disqualified from future office if they “engaged in insurrection” or have “given aid or comfort” to insurrectionists. But the Constitution does not spell out how to enforce the ban, and it has been applied only twice since the 1800s.
A liberal watchdog group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed the Colorado case on behalf of six Republican and unaffiliated voters. The judge is scheduled to preside over a trial beginning October 30 to decide a series of novel legal questions about how the 14th Amendment could apply to Trump.
In a 24-page ruling, Wallace rejected many of Trump’s arguments that the case was procedurally flawed and should be shut down. She said the key question of whether Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold has the power to block Trump from the ballot based on the 14th Amendment “is a pivotal issue and one best reserved for trial.”
Wallace also swatted away arguments from the Colorado GOP that state law gives the party, not election officials, ultimate say on which candidates appear on the ballot.
“If the Party, without any oversight, can choose its preferred candidate, then it could theoretically nominate anyone regardless of their age, citizenship, residency,” she wrote. “Such an interpretation is absurd; the Constitution and its requirements for eligibility are not suggestions, left to the political parties to determine at their sole discretion.”
Wallace also cited a 2012 opinion from Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, when he was a Denver-based appeals judge, which said states have the power to “exclude from the ballot candidates who are constitutionally prohibited from assuming office.” She cited this while rejecting Trump’s claim that Colorado’s ballot access laws don’t give state officials any authority to disqualify him based on federal constitutional considerations.
Trump already lost an earlier bid to throw out the case on free-speech grounds.
The current GOP front-runner, Trump denies wrongdoing regarding January 6 and has pleaded not guilty to state and federal charges stemming from his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. His campaign has said lawsuits are pushing an “absurd conspiracy theory” and the challengers are “stretching the law beyond recognition.”
The 14th Amendment challenges in Colorado and other key states face an uphill climb, with many legal hurdles to clear before Trump would be disqualified from running for the presidency. Trump is sure to appeal any decision to strip him from the ballot, which means the Supreme Court and its conservative supermajority might get the final say.
In recent months, a growing and politically diverse array of legal scholars have thrown their support behind the idea that Trump is disqualified under the “insurrectionist ban.” The bipartisan House committee that investigated the January 6 attack recommended last year that Trump be barred from holding future office under the 14th Amendment.
The Colorado challengers recently revealed in a court filing that they want to depose Trump before trial. Trump opposes this request, and the judge hasn’t issued a ruling.