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The 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States discusses aspects of citizenship and equal protection of the laws. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says that no person who has taken an oath to protect and serve the Constitution and then engaged in an insurrection can hold office. This amendment was originally written after the Civil War and was intended to keep former Confederates out of office. There has generally not been a use or application of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment since the 1800s until now.
A Colorado court case was filed with the intent of keeping former President Trump’s name off the GOP primary ballot on Super Tuesday. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed this case on behalf of six voters in Colorado. CREW has stated that they firmly believe that former President Trump has violated the terms of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and should be disqualified from the upcoming primary and general election. The President of CREW has also spoken out, stating that this case is necessary to defend America’s democracy and to prove the importance of ethics in presidential elections.
Lawyers from both sides have already discussed the case, which began on Monday, October 30th, and is slated to last at least a week, if not possibly longer. Eric Olson, one of the lawyers on the side of the plaintiff, argued that his team would prove the events of January 6th, 2021, are considered an insurrection and that former President Trump’s actions to overturn the election fall under this definition. They also aim to prove that Trump’s words “summoned and organized the mob” at the Capitol. Olson and his team plan to use social media as evidence, including Trump’s personal tweets. They have stated that former President Trump used his social media accounts as tools to encourage and incite violence at his rally in Washington, D.C.
On the other hand, lawyer Scott Gessler on the Trump team has said they will argue that engaging in an insurrection requires more than just words. They will argue that Trump did not take action to incite an insurrection but merely encouraged his followers and supporters to fight for what they believe is right. This would not not fall under the definition of “inciting an insurrection” in their eyes, as politicians use the word “fight” all the time.
The presiding judge in the Colorado case, Judge Sarah Wallace, has stated that she will “not allow this legal proceeding to turn into a circus”. This statement comes after calls that Wallace should recuse herself from the case from conservatives, stating that she made a donation to a group that had previously advocated against President Trump’s last campaign.
As of Thursday, November 2nd, both sides have had the opportunity to call witnesses to testify as well as cross-examine the opposing side. Trump’s lawyers asked Judge Wallace to hand down a directed verdict, which is a decision made after the plaintiffs present all their evidence. This would be essentially telling the plaintiffs that they have failed to make their case, but Judge Wallace refused, and the trial carried on as previously planned. So far, both sides have called members of Congress who were present at the Capitol on January 6th, as well as legal and constitutional experts.
Many legal scholars and experts have labeled this case a long shot. If this case does find that former President Trump should be disqualified from the GOP primary ballot, the defendants will likely appeal. It would then go to the appeals court and likely make it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, which currently has a 6-3 conservative majority.
Looking towards the future, this is not the only case of its kind being filed. There are also cases in Minnesota, Michigan, and New Hampshire that are set to be brought to trial in the coming months, if not weeks. The case in Minnesota is set to begin trial on Thursday, November 2nd, and will follow similar legal proceedings as the Colorado case. As many legal scholars have predicted, these cases might not see the results the plaintiffs hope for, but they will answer important questions about the limits of the 14th Amendment and how it can be used in modern-day American politics.
This article was edited by Sarah Davey.