A current landmark legal case in the U.S. Supreme Court will have huge implications for the 2024 presidential elections, particularly focusing on whether former President Donald Trump can once again run for the presidency. This case is primarily centered on the interpretation of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a seldom-invoked section that prohibits anyone who has partaken in insurrection or rebellion against the United States from holding office. The crux of the argument lies in Trump’s role in the events of January 6, 2021, during which the Capitol was stormed by a violent mob.
The dispute originated in Colorado, where a lawsuit was initiated by voters to block Trump from being on the primary ballot. They pointed to his actions connected to the Capitol riot as grounds for disqualification under the 14th Amendment. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled against Trump, marking a turning point as the interpretation of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment has not been widely challenged since its establishment in 1868.
The Supreme Court’s decision isn’t only about Trump’s eligibility in Colorado but has wider national significance. Over 30 states are waiting for direction as legal challenges to Trump’s candidacy under the identical constitutional provision are pending nationwide. Therefore, the Supreme Court’s ruling is likely to set a precedent affecting the electoral setting and the application of the 14th Amendment in the future.
There is a broad range of legal opinions on this matter. Some legal experts argue that Trump’s actions on January 6 meet the criteria for engagement in insurrection, thereby disqualifying him from holding office. Others argue that the amendment was never intended to apply to presidential candidates, with historical precedents and legal interpretations backing both viewpoints. Trump’s legal team is challenging the Colorado ruling, claiming that the disqualification clause does not apply to him and that his actions do not meet the legal definition of insurrection. They argue that removing him from the ballot would limit voter choice and exceed the 14th Amendment’s scope.
During the oral arguments held on Thursday, February 8, the justices seemed skeptical about barring Trump from the ballot. They suggested that it should be Congress, not individual states, which should set standards for disqualifying presidential candidates for engaging in insurrection. This perspective brings into question the balance of power between state and federal authorities in determining election eligibility and its larger implications for American democracy.
Jonathan F. Mitchell has been selected by Trump as his legal representative. Mitchell, a former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia and Texas solicitor general, is known for his role in creating SB8, a unique anti-abortion law in Texas. This law allows ordinary citizens to file legal complaints against anyone involved in performing the procedure. Mitchell has extensive experience arguing cases at the Supreme Court and has taught law at several prestigious universities such as Stanford, the University of Texas, the University of Chicago, and George Mason University.
The plaintiffs from Colorado who initiated the lawsuit to remove Trump from the electoral ballot are represented by Jason C. Murray. A Harvard Law School graduate, Murray has previously worked as a clerk for both Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Neil Gorsuch while Gorsuch was serving on the 10th Circuit. Murray has considerable experience as a trial lawyer.
The case has attracted a great deal of attention, with over 80 amicus briefs filed, showing the deep divisions and high stakes. Witnesses in the Colorado trial, including Representative Eric Swalwell and police officers who responded to the Capitol attack, offered firsthand accounts of the events, while legal experts discussed the definition of insurrection and the historical context of the 14th Amendment.
As the Supreme Court considers these arguments, its verdict will not only decide Trump’s political future but will also examine fundamental issues such as insurrection, constitutional accountability, and the qualifications for public office. With the country’s attention focused on the case, the result will have far-reaching implications for the rule of law and the principles that uphold American democracy.