Hearings began on Monday in a case that could potentially remove former President Donald Trump from the ballot in a critical swing state. The judge overseeing this legal challenge was appointed by the state’s Democratic governor, Jared Polis (appointed in August 2022).
The proceedings commenced in a Denver courtroom under the supervision of Judge Sarah Wallace. This case is just one in a series of legal actions aimed at Trump and his Republican allies who questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election, seeking to prevent its certification by Congress. It’s not the first of its kind; other Democratic politicians have tried to get their primary competitor off the ballots throughout the last century. This past year, a Florida Judge threw out a similar case where the Plaintiff sought to keep Trump off the ballot.
Now, another group contends that the leading 2024 presidential candidate for the GOP should be disqualified from the ballot based on an obscure clause in the 14th Amendment, dating back to the Civil War era, which prohibits individuals who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” (essentially, those who supported the Confederates) from holding federal office.
Six Colorado voters, along with the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics located in Washington, argue that this Amendment could be applied to President Trump. Their legal complaint, filed on September 6, asserts that “Donald Trump tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election.”
It goes on to state that “his efforts culminated on January 6, 2021, when he incited, exacerbated, and otherwise engaged in a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol by a mob who believed they were following his orders, and refused to protect the Capitol or call off the mob for nearly three hours as the attack unfolded.”
Similar cases have been tried before and failed to gain traction. However, this one might have a different outcome. According to Colorado Newsline, “the Colorado case — the first to be filed by CREW, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., and the first to go to trial — represents the most substantial test for such efforts to date.” Previously, CREW successfully used the 14th Amendment in a lawsuit to remove Couy Griffin, a county commissioner in Otero County, New Mexico, who had participated in the January 6 attack.
However, it’s important to note that actively participating in the Capitol incursion is distinct from being the leading GOP presidential candidate. Trump’s attorney argued in a motion to dismiss on September 29, stating that after the 2020 election cycle, President Trump made various statements and took various legal actions questioning the fairness or accuracy of the announced results. But he is hardly the first politician to do that — and Petitioners identify no facts that could convert this political controversy into an insurrection against the government.
Opening arguments for the case began on Monday. According to the polling website FiveThirtyEight, President Joe Biden maintains a consistent but not substantial lead in a hypothetical head-to-head presidential matchup against Trump in Colorado, a state that typically leans Democratic but can have surprises. The most recent poll listed on the site, conducted by Emerson College from October 1 to October 4, showed Biden with a 4-point advantage, 42 percent to 38 percent.
Judge Wallace stated that she would not respond to arguments made by Trump’s lawyers regarding “whether President Trump engaged in an insurrection.” She indicated that this issue would be addressed during the hearing scheduled to begin on October 30, 2023.
Given her appointment by a Democratic governor, this development could potentially have significant implications, especially if it escalates to the Supreme Court, where the argument could be made that a Democrat-appointed judge decides to remove the political opposition from the ballot.