Legal Proceedings Initiate to Prevent Trump’s Presidential Candidacy Based on ‘Insurrection’ Clause

by Gabriel Martinez
Insurrection Clause and 2024 Presidential Eligibility

Legal attempts to invoke the United States Constitution’s “insurrection” clause against former President Donald Trump, in order to prohibit him from running for the presidency again, advanced to a significant stage this Monday. A hearing in Colorado concentrated on establishing whether the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, falls under the constitutional interpretation of “insurrection,” and if Trump’s involvement in the incident reaches the criteria for his disqualification.

This hearing in Colorado is the inaugural phase in a series of lawsuits from two states that could potentially escalate to the United States Supreme Court. The proceedings commenced with an exploration of the events surrounding the 2021 Capitol attack, which sought to impede the official confirmation of Joe Biden’s election victory.

Legal counsel Eric Olson, representing a faction of Colorado voters aiming to exclude Trump from future ballots, highlighted Trump’s inflammatory language and his incitement of a crowd that came dangerously close to the Vice President during the Capitol siege. Olson argued that Trump “convened and directed the assembly.”

“The reason for our presence here is that Trump is asserting that he retains the entitlement to run for the presidency once more,” Olson noted. “However, our nation’s foundational document explicitly prohibits him from doing so.”

In contrast, Trump’s lawyer, Scott Gessler, labeled the legal action as “counter to democratic principles.” He pointed out that historical precedent exists, citing socialist labor leader Eugene Debs who ran for office from prison without legal objection.

Gessler, a former Colorado Secretary of State, emphasized that election law informally maintains a “rule of democracy,” which essentially advocates for “erring on the side of enfranchisement” in cases of ambiguity.

This coming Thursday, the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments related to a similar effort to bar Trump from that state’s ballot. The court’s decisions are expected to be rapidly appealed, possibly making their way to the United States Supreme Court.

Interestingly, the highest court in the land has not previously delivered a ruling on the specific Civil War-era provision in the 14th Amendment, which disallows individuals from holding higher office if they have “engaged in insurrection” against the Constitution after taking an oath to uphold it.

Derek T. Muller, a law professor at Notre Dame, observed that eligibility debates for presidential candidates are not new, citing challenges against Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, and John McCain on the basis of their “natural born citizen” status. However, he noted that the current cases introduce a different legal dimension by invoking the Constitution’s seldom-used clause against insurrection.

The lawsuits filed in Colorado and Minnesota are considered particularly significant by legal scholars, given that they are backed by liberal organizations with substantial legal capabilities and are focused on states with established procedures for challenging candidate qualifications.

According to the Colorado lawsuit, Trump breached his oath and thus disqualified himself from future public office under the 14th Amendment by leading “a violent insurrection aimed at stopping the peaceful transition of power.” Trump and his legal team have decried the lawsuits as “interference in elections,” arguing that the Constitution’s insurrection clause, dormant for 150 years, does not straightforwardly apply to the case at hand.

Both parties are anticipated to deeply scrutinize the historical context of the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause, given the scarcity of legal precedents. After the Amnesty Act of 1872, the clause has rarely been invoked, with the exception of a few isolated incidents such as the case of “Cowboys for Trump” and lawsuits against Republican Representatives Marjorie Taylor-Greene and Madison Cawthorn.

The Minnesota lawsuit filed by Free Speech For People is of particular note, as the state’s supreme court is the immediate forum for ballot-related legal challenges. The outcomes of these cases are likely to have broad implications, raising significant constitutional questions that could ultimately necessitate intervention by the United States Supreme Court.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Insurrection Clause

What is the main focus of the legal proceedings in Colorado?

The main focus is to determine whether the “insurrection” clause of the U.S. Constitution can be invoked to disqualify former President Donald Trump from running for presidency again. The hearing aims to establish whether the events of January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol meet the constitutional definition of “insurrection” and whether Trump’s role in those events warrants his disqualification from future public office.

Could this case reach the U.S. Supreme Court?

Yes, the case in Colorado is part of a series of lawsuits that could potentially escalate to the United States Supreme Court. Given the significance and the constitutional questions involved, any rulings at the state level are likely to be swiftly appealed, possibly making their way to the highest court.

What are the arguments presented by both sides?

Eric Olson, representing a group of Colorado voters, argues that Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and actions on January 6, 2021, meet the threshold for “engaging in insurrection” against the U.S. Constitution. On the other hand, Scott Gessler, an attorney representing Trump, argues that the lawsuit is anti-democratic and counters that the insurrection clause does not straightforwardly apply to the office of the President.

Has the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause been invoked before?

The 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause has been seldom used since its adoption in 1868. Most notably, it was utilized during the period immediately following the Civil War. Since then, it has rarely been cited, making the current cases against Trump potentially precedent-setting.

Who are the key legal experts and entities involved?

Eric Olson is the attorney representing the group of Colorado voters seeking to bar Trump from the presidential ballot. Scott Gessler is representing Donald Trump. The Colorado lawsuit was filed by the liberal group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Derek T. Muller, a Notre Dame law professor, is cited as an expert providing context on the historical and legal significance of the cases.

Are there similar cases in other states?

Yes, a similar legal effort is underway in Minnesota, where oral arguments are scheduled before the state’s Supreme Court. Like the Colorado case, it aims to determine Trump’s eligibility for future public office based on the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause.

What is the significance of the cases filed in Colorado and Minnesota?

Legal scholars consider the lawsuits in Colorado and Minnesota particularly significant due to their backing by well-resourced liberal organizations and because they focus on states with clear processes for challenging candidate qualifications. The outcomes could set legal precedents and raise substantial constitutional questions.

More about Insurrection Clause

  • U.S. Constitution: 14th Amendment
  • The January 6, 2021 Capitol Attack
  • Legal Definition of “Insurrection”
  • Historical Usage of the 14th Amendment’s Insurrection Clause
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
  • Oral Arguments in Minnesota Supreme Court
  • The Role of the U.S. Supreme Court in Electoral Disputes
  • Overview of Election Law Principles

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SarahWilliams October 30, 2023 - 5:00 pm

im no legal expert but this is kinda fascinating. This clause from the Civil War era, now being pulled into 21st century politics. What a time to be alive!

JaneSmith October 30, 2023 - 9:12 pm

I can’t believe we’re even discussing this, but the Constitution exists for a reason. Lets see how it all unfolds. Either way, this is gonna be in history books.

JohnDoe October 31, 2023 - 1:28 am

Woah, this is pretty heavy stuff. If the court actually bars Trump from running again, that would be a game changer for sure. Are we even ready for such a precedent?

MikeRoberts October 31, 2023 - 6:09 am

Is this even constitutional? feels like a political move more than anything else. Who decides what counts as insurrection anyways?

AlanBrown October 31, 2023 - 7:44 am

First off, good write-up. Clear and detailed. Second, if this goes to the Supreme Court, it’s gonna be a wild ride. The insurrection clause hasn’t been used much, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.

WilliamJones October 31, 2023 - 8:02 am

Whats really striking is the lack of precedent. We’re in uncharted waters here, which makes it even more interesting but also more unpredictable.

EmilyClark October 31, 2023 - 1:58 pm

The part about other candidates like Eugene Debs running from prison got me thinking. How come no one tried to disqualify him but now they wanna disqualify Trump?

LauraGraham October 31, 2023 - 3:58 pm

Those attorneys are gonna have a deep dive into history. I mean, an 1869 case? Thats some serious research right there.


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