Supreme Court Unanimously Reinstates Trump to Colorado Ballot

2024-03-04 07:04:25

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its Opinion in the challenge to the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to remove Donald Trump from the primary ballot. The primary election in Colorado is tomorrow, March 5, which likely dictated the timing of the Opinion.

In a Per Curiam (meaning, in the name of the Court) ruling, Trump stays on the ballot. There were no dissents. The three liberal Justices issued a separate opinion concurring in the judgment – meaning they agreed with the resut. More will be added to this post after I have time to digest what just went down, but here is the opening of the Opinion:

A group of Colorado voters contends that Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits former President Donald J. Trump, who seeks the Presidential nomination of the Republican Party in this year’s election, from becoming President again. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with that contention. It ordered the Colorado secretary of state to exclude the former President from the Republican primary ballot in the State and to disregard any write-in votes that Colorado voters might cast for him.

Former President Trump challenges that decision on several grounds. Because the Constitution makes Congress, rather than the States, responsible for enforcing Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates, we reverse.

More to Follow

This decision should put an end to ALL state attempts to remove Trump from the ballot based on alleged participation in an insurrection. It also seems to preclude the federal courts from doing the same. It’s up to Congress.

More from the Opinion:

This case raises the question whether the States, in addition to Congress, may also enforce Section 3. We conclude that States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency….

As an initial matter, not even the respondents contend that the Constitution authorizes States to somehow remove sitting federal officeholders who may be violating Section 3. Such a power would flout the principle that “the Constitution guarantees ‘the entire independence of the General Government from any control by the respective States.’” ….

The respondents nonetheless maintain that States may enforce Section 3 against candidates for federal office. But the text of the Fourteenth Amendment, on its face, does not affirmatively delegate such a power to the States. The terms of the Amendment speak only to enforcement by Congress, which enjoys power to enforce the Amendment through legislation pursuant to Section 5…..

The text of Section 3 reinforces these conclusions. Its final sentence empowers Congress to “remove” any Section 3 “disability” by a two-thirds vote of each house. The text imposes no limits on that power, and Congress may exercise it any time, as the respondents concede….

Conflicting state outcomes concerning the same candidate could result not just from differing views of the merits, but from variations in state law governing the proceedings that are necessary to make Section 3 disqualification determinations. ….

The disruption would be all the more acute—and could nullify the votes of millions and change the election result—if Section 3 enforcement were attempted after the Nation has voted. Nothing in the Constitution requires that we endure such chaos—arriving at any time or different times, up to and perhaps beyond the Inauguration…..

For the reasons given, responsibility for enforcing Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates rests with Congress and not the States. The judgment of the Colorado Supreme Court therefore cannot stand.

All nine Members of the Court agree with that result. Our colleagues writing separately further agree with many of the reasons this opinion provides for reaching it. See post, Part I (joint opinion of SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and JACKSON, JJ.); see also post, p. 1 (opinion of BARRETT, J.). So far as we can tell, they object only to our taking into account the distinctive way Section 3 works and the fact that Section 5 vests in Congress the power to enforce it. These are not the only reasons the States lack power to enforce this particular constitutional provision with respect to federal offices. But they are important ones, and it is the combination of all the reasons set forth in this opinion—not, as some of our colleagues would have it, just one particular rationale—that resolves this case. In our view, each of these reasons is necessary to provide a complete explanation for the judgment the Court unanimously reaches.

Barrett concurring opinion:

I join Parts I and II–B of the Court’s opinion. I agree that States lack the power to enforce Section 3 against Presidential candidates. That principle is sufficient to resolve this case, and I would decide no more than that. This suit was brought by Colorado voters under state law in state court. It does not require us to address the complicated question whether federal legislation is the exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced.

The majority’s choice of a different path leaves the remaining Justices with a choice of how to respond. In my judgment, this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency. The Court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election. Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up. For present purposes, our differences are far less important than our unanimity: All nine Justices agree on the outcome of this case. That is the message Americans should take home.

From the Sotomayor (joined by Kagan and Jackson) concurring opinion, something similar to Barrett’s view that the Court didn’t need to decide as much as it did:

In this case, the Court must decide whether Colorado may keep a Presidential candidate off the ballot on the ground that he is an oathbreaking insurrectionist and thus disqualified from holding federal office under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Allowing Colorado to do so would, we agree, create a chaotic state-by-state patchwork, at odds with our Nation’s federalism principles. That is enough to resolve this case. Yet the majority goes further. Even though “[a]ll nine Members of the Court” agree that this independent and sufficient rationale resolves this case, five Justices go on. They decide novel constitutional questions to insulate this Court and petitioner from future controversy. Ante, at 13. Although only an individual State’s action is at issue here, the majority opines on which federal actors can enforce Section 3, and how they must do so. The majority announces that a disqualification for insurrection can occur only when Congress enacts a particular kind of legislation pursuant to Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. In doing so, the majority shuts the door on other potential means of federal enforcement. We cannot join an opinion that decides momentous and difficult issues unnecessarily, and we therefore concur only in the judgment….

Today, the majority goes beyond the necessities of this case to limit how Section 3 can bar an oathbreaking insurrectionist from becoming President. Although we agree that Colorado cannot enforce Section 3, we protest the majority’s effort to use this case to define the limits of federal enforcement of that provision. Because we would decide only the issue before us, we concur only in the judgment.

The Colorado Secretary of State says SCOTUS stripped the state of enforcement power – but it never had that power to begin with.


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Supreme Court Unanimously Reinstates Trump to Colorado Ballot


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