In Major Setback for Democracy, Insurrectionist is Allowed to Stay on Ballot

SCOTUS Rules Congress, Not States, Enforces 14th Amendment

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a major setback for democracy, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Trump v. Anderson that Congress, rather than states, is responsible for enforcing the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when it comes to federal offices.

The ruling means Donald Trump is still eligible to appear on the Colorado ballot, despite his role in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a violation of the “disqualification clause” of the 14th Amendment.

This decision sets a dangerous precedent for the permissible conduct of future presidents. By allowing Donald Trump to put himself above the law, this ruling declares that the Constitution of the United States can be selectively enforced. In failing to hold the former President accountable for attempting to destroy a 200-year history of a peaceful transfer of power, SCOTUS puts the survival of our democracy at risk.

Statement of Kathay Feng, Common Cause vice president of programs: 

“This decision undermines the integrity of our Constitution and emboldens those seeking to disrupt and dismantle our democratic systems. For over 200 years, all but one of our leaders have abided by the Constitution and practiced the peaceful transfer of power. This ruling reverses the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision, and with it, green lights future presidents to intimidate, threaten and attack Congress into obedience. Our Constitution depends on checks and balances. Removing states as a check on tyrannical presidents threatens the future of our democracy. Common Cause is more committed than ever to ensuring that lawlessness will not become the new law of the land — we will work to ensure every voter is able to cast a ballot and be fairly counted, regardless of threats of political violence or insurrection.”

Statement of Aly Belknap, Colorado Common Cause executive director:

“Today’s ruling will be remembered as a dark day for our democracy. Donald Trump lied, cheated, and unleashed violence when the election did not go his way, and his ongoing incitement has led to an unprecedented rise in attacks and death threats against election workers, judges, and other public servants. By refusing to hold Trump accountable and allowing him to skirt around the pillars of our Constitution, SCOTUS has greenlit this behavior for future public officials.”

Statement of Levi A. Monagle,Hall Monagle Huffman & Wallace LLC attorney representing Common Cause:

“The Framers of our Constitution foresaw — and feared — the very situation in which this case came to be. That’s why our Constitution was wisely designed to restrain the power of transient, inflamed majorities to protect the health and safety of our democratic system. Sadly, SCOTUS has chosen to chip away at the foundation of the Constitution by refusing to hold the former President accountable. To ignore this threat and to willfully undermine the constitution is to invite a coup. We now face the risk of descending into a lawless future.” 

You can find the Supreme Court’s decision here.

Background on Trump v. Anderson:

The lawsuit was initially filed in September 2023 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, 2023, Colorado District court 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 case is now on appeal in the Colorado Supreme Court. The case then went on appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Colorado Common Cause filed an amicus brief in the Colorado Supreme Court’s case urging the Court to enforce the Constitution and hold Trump accountable in line with the “disqualification clause” of the 14th Amendment, ultimately aligning with the court’s final ruling that Trump’s role in the insurrection disqualifies him from the Colorado ballot under the 14th Amendment. Trump appealed the decision, and Common Cause then filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States, urging the court to affirm the Colorado Supreme Court’s Ruling. 

This case was historic in its aim to remove a presidential candidate from the ballot. The first successful enforcement of Section 3 in over 150 years occurred last year when a New Mexico court ruled that Couy Griffin, a New Mexico county commissioner, engaged in the January 6 insurrection. Upon the judge’s ruling that Griffin was disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, he was immediately removed from office.