Judge Sarah B. Wallace ruled in the court case challenging former President Donald Trump’s right of eligibility to appear on the 2024 Colorado ballot, on Friday, issuing a split decision that appears ready-made to lift it immediately to the Colorado Supreme Court, and set it up to go directly to the United States Supreme Court.
After a week of hearing evidence, the Denver judge ruled on the eligibility challenge, finding that Donald Trump remains eligible for the state’s 2024 presidential ballot even though he engaged in an insurrection. With that decision, the Denver court has joined courts elsewhere that have rejected attempts to disqualify the leading Republican candidate. The case centered on the interpretation of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars insurrectionists from holding state or federal office again.
But this ruling relies on an interpretation of the wording in the United States Constitution for those employees and elected officials who swear to “support the Constitution”, while the person taking the oath of office of President of the United States swear to “uphold, protect and defend” the Constitution.
But Wallace ruled that this didn’t apply to presidents who weren’t specifically called out as an “officer” of the United States within the Constitutional wording, and pointed out the discrepancies of wording.
This is the fourth ruling in which a judge has concluded it is not their role to resolve Trump’s current eligibility. Similar cases have been tried in New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Michigan and all have allowed Trump’s name on the ballot.
Wallace’s decision is contained in a 102-page order, which appeared to split hairs. In her November 27 order she wrote, “To be clear, part of the Court’s decision is its reluctance to embrace an interpretation which would disqualify a presidential candidate without a clear, unmistakable indication that such is the intent.”
But while she ordered that Trump’s name can appear on the ballot, she issued a scathing denunciation of Trump’s conduct leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Ahead of any pending indictments (there are 91 counts against the former president at this writing) she issued a conclusion that Trump did incite an insurrection to halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
In her written order, she wrote, “Trump cultivated a culture that embraced political violence through his consistent endorsement of the same … he responded to growing threats of violence and intimidation in the lead-up to the certification by amplifying his false claims of election fraud.”
“He convened a large crowd on the date of the certification in Washington, D.C., focused them on the certification process, told them their country was being stolen from them, called for strength and action, and directed them to the Capitol where the certification was about to take place.”
Secretary of State Jena Griswold, speaking Friday evening with MSNBC, noted that she hadn’t taken any position on Trump’s eligibility, but she did add that she had asked the judge to make a firm decision on whether Trump’s alleged participation in an insurrection rendered him disqualified.
“The Court determined that Donald Trump is eligible to be placed on the Colorado ballot in the March Presidential Primary. This decision may be appealed. As Secretary of State, I will always ensure that every voter can make their voice heard in free and fair elections,” said Griswold’s statement.
In Colorado, the names that will be printed on the primary ballots need to be finalized by January 5, 2024 for our primary on Super Tuesday.
The decision begs the question: if judges are ruling that it is not their responsibility to determine Trump’s eligibility to be on the ballot — whose responsibility is it?