WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, Common Cause filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States asserting that former President Donald Trump should be excluded from the Colorado ballot under the 14th Amendment for his role in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The case comes on appeal after Colorado’s High Court recently ruled that the “disqualification clause” of the 14th Amendment applied to Presidents, thus making former President Trump ineligible for the state ballot. Colorado Common Cause filed an amicus brief in the Colorado Supreme Court’s case, ultimately aligning with the court’s final ruling.
“This case is a moment of truth for American democracy,” said Kathay Feng, vice president of programs for Common Cause. “Its outcome will impact not only the 2024 election, but our American values in the institutions of democracy. The Supreme Court plays a critical role as an active defender of our Constitution. We need to send a clear message to violent insurrectionists: no one is above the law.”
Specifically, Common Cause’s amicus brief urges SCOTUS to uphold the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling, asserting that former President Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — and his open and ongoing support for the insurrectionists — poses the greatest danger to our democratic system since the Civil War. Further, it highlights how this case lies at the intersection of two of the main threats to democracy that the Founding Fathers most feared: violent insurrection and executive tyranny, which is what the U.S. Constitution is designed to protect against.
Common Cause presents both historical and current evidence that if Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment is not enforced in this case, there is a genuine risk that our system of government will not survive. If those who have fomented violence to overthrow the people’s vote are allowed to run for the nation’s highest office, even promising to pardon all those who engaged in the attack on the Capitol, all American elections will be under threat of violence.
“American democracy has never meant unchecked mob rule,” said Aly Belknap, executive director of Colorado Common Cause. “Donald Trump sent an armed mob to the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of an election. His ongoing incitement has led to an unprecedented rise in attacks and death threats against election workers, judges, and other public servants. There must be consequences for political violence — the Supreme Court must hold the former President accountable to the people and to the Constitution.”
The initial lawsuit was filed in September on behalf of six Colorado voters by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government accountability and advocacy organization, and Martha Tierney, Common Cause’s National Governing Board Chair and member of the Colorado Common Cause State Advisory Board. The suit sought to disqualify former President Donald Trump from office by enforcing Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits those who violate their oaths of office by engaging in insurrection from holding public office.
On November 17, Colorado District Judge Sarah Wallace ruled that former President Donald Trump “engaged in an insurrection” on January 6, 2021, within the meaning of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. The judge ultimately rejected the attempt to remove him from the state’s 2024 primary ballot, holding that the clause does not apply to the presidency. The plaintiffs appealed the case to the state’s highest court. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on December 19, 2023, that former President Donald Trump was disqualified from presidential candidacy by leading a violent insurrection against the U.S. on January 6, 2021.
“The Framers of our Constitution foresaw — and feared — the very situation in which we now find ourselves,” said Levi A. Monagle, attorney with Hall Monagle Huffman & Wallace LLC representing Common Cause. “Thus, our Constitution wisely restrains the power of transient, inflamed majorities to protect the health and safety of our democratic system. To criticize those checks as ‘undemocratic’ misunderstands our Constitution and our nation’s history. To ignore such a threat is to invite a coup. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment must be enforced.”
The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will set precedent and likely provide nationwide guidance on Donald Trump’s eligibility for the ballot.
Oral arguments before the Supreme Court will be held on February 8.
To read Common Cause’s amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, click here.