A Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday barred immediate past United States President, Donald Trump from appearing on the state’s ballots for next year’s election due to his inciting the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot — but paused the decision from taking effect until Jan. 4.
The delay allows Trump to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 4-3 ruling — which he plans to do — and in doing so indefinitely extend the hold on the Colorado decision from taking effect.
The Colorado Supreme Court in that decision said there was significant evidence that showed “that President Trump engaged in insurrection,” disqualifying him from serving as president under a provision in the U.S. Constitution.
It is the first time a state court has agreed that Trump should be disqualified from the 2024 election because he championed the insurrection to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden, a Democrat. All seven justices who heard arguments in the case on Dec. 6 were appointed by Democratic governors.
Four of the state’s Supreme Court justices voted to block Trump from the ballot in Tuesday’s 133-page ruling, which in reversing a lower court’s decision found that the Constitution’s disqualification provision applied to the office of president.
Three Colorado justices, among them Chief Justice Brian Boatright, dissented from the ruling. All three of them wrote dissents explaining their votes.
“A majority of the court holds that President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the majority wrote in the ruling.
“Because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Colorado Secretary of State to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot,” the ruling said.
The majority went on to say, “We do not reach these conclusions lightly.”
“We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach,” the opinion said.
“We are also cognizant that we travel in uncharted territory, and that this case presents several issues of first impression.”
If the ruling stands, Trump would be denied the opportunity to contest for Colorado’s 10 votes in the Electoral College, the entity that selects a president every four years.
But the decision said that if Trump seeks a review of the case from the U.S. Supreme Court — which his campaign immediately vowed to do — the pause in the ruling will remain in effect until the federal high court either rejects Trump’s request or rules on the question of his eligibility on the ballot.
That delay means that Trump, who looks increasingly likely to win the Republican presidential nomination, could appear on the March 5 GOP primary ballot in Colorado.
Courts in Minnesota and Michigan have rejected similar suits challenging Trump’s placement on the presidential ballot. But the issue continues to be litigated in many states, including Michigan, where plaintiffs have appealed the loss of their suit.
Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, in a statement, said, “This ruling, issued by the Colorado Supreme Court, attacks the very heart of this nation’s democracy.”
“It will not stand, and we trust that the Supreme Court will reverse this unconstitutional order,” Habba added.
Trump spoke at a campaign rally in Waterloo, Iowa, after the ruling was issued, but did not mention the decision in remarks that lasted more than an hour.
However, his campaign quickly sent out a fundraising appeal citing the ruling, saying, “Please make a contribution to join the fight to keep my name on the 2024 ballot and peacefully defend YOUR right to vote.”
In his dissent to the majority opinion Chief Justice Boatright wrote that the suit challenging Trump’s eligibility in Colorado elections should have been dismissed because the state election code section that was cited to bring the claim “was not enacted to decide whether a candidate engaged in insurrection.”
“Unlike qualifications such as age and place of birth, an application of Section Three requires courts to define complex terms, determine legislative intent from over 150 years ago, and make factual findings foreign to our election code,” Boatright wrote.
Justice Carlos Samour, in his dissent, said the ruling “flies in the face” of Trump’s right to “due process” in the case.
Samour suggested that such due process at the trial court level could have included, but did not, the right of Trump to subpoena documents, compel witnesses to testify and “the opportunity for a fair trial.”
“I have been involved in the justice system for thirty-three years now, and what took place here doesn’t resemble anything I’ve seen in a courtroom,” Samour wrote.
The ruling comes three months after a group of six Colorado voters sued to block Trump from state ballots because of a claim he was barred due to the constitutional provision.
Section 3 says that “no person” can serve as an officer of the United States who, having previously taken an oath of federal office, “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S.
The suit claimed that Trump’s incitement of the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by a mob of his supporters was an act of insurrection.
The riot disrupted for hours the confirmation of Biden’s electoral victory.
Trump for weeks had pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, to refuse to accept the Electoral College results in Biden’s favor at that proceeding. And he repeated that call on Pence as he urged attendees at a Jan. 6 rally outside the White House to march to the Capitol to oppose the election certification.
In November, Denver District Court Judge Sarah Wallace ruled that Trump could appear on the ballot, even though she believed he had “engaged in insurrection” by inciting the riot.
Wallace said Trump’s name should be on the ballot because the office of president is not subject to Section 3.
Wallace’s ruling was appealed by the plaintiffs, and also by Trump, who objected to her finding that he had engaged in insurrection.