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U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rules in favor of Trump in Colorado ballot case

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – States do not have the power to remove former President Donald Trump from their presidential primary ballots under the 14th Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court stated the U.S. Constitution makes Congress, not the states, the body responsible for enforcing Section Three of the 14th Amendment. Six Republicans in Colorado attempted to legally remove Trump from the 2024 primary ballot , arguing the states could take action against federal officeholders and candidates. 

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled last year that Trump could be removed from the state's presidential primary ballot for his actions January 6, 2021. Colorado's highest court, in a 4-3 decision, overturned a district court ruling as District Court Judge Sarah Wallace ruled Trump’s speech on January 6 “incited lawless violence” but didn’t meet the definition of “engagement” found in the 14th Amendment.

Trump appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the decision on Monday was unanimous, the court's four female justices wrote opinions clarifying many arguments and case law. The ruling comes days after the court agreed to hear arguments in April about whether Trump is immune from prosecution while serving as president.

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Memebers of the Supreme Court of the United States 2022 - WIkimedia - Public Domain

In a concurring opinion, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by Trump, appealed for the nation to end political hostility.

“In my judgment, this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency,” Barrett wrote. “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."

In another concurring opinion, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson stated the ruling gave Congress more power than other federal bodies.

"Today, the majority goes beyond the necessities of this case to limit how Section 3 can bar an oath breaking insurrectionist from becoming President," the justices wrote. "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 main opinion acknowledged the other two opinions in its summary and emphasized multiple other cases as necessary to properly explain the ruling.

"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," the opinion stated. "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."

The nation’s highest court agreed to hear the appeal of former President Trump in early January. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, urged the U.S. Supreme Court to prioritize the case and make a ruling as soon as possible.

"In accordance with this decision, Donald Trump is an eligible candidate on Colorado’s 2024 Presidential Primary," Griswold said in a statement immediately after the ruling.

However, the Colorado Supreme Court added a stipulation for Trump’s name to be added to the state’s 2024 presidential primary ballot if he appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. When Colorado voters go to the polls on Tuesday, they will be able to vote for Trump to be the Republican nominee in the presidential primary and it will count.

Each of the U.S. Supreme Court justices questioned the constitutional arguments February 8.