A retired federal judge and a prominent conservative lawyer have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that former President Donald Trump is ineligible to run for public office again under a constitutional provision that bans those who have engaged in insurrection against the country.
As reported by CNN on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, J. Michael Luttig, who served on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for 15 years, and George Conway, who is also the husband of former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, submitted the amicus brief on Monday, ahead of the Supreme Court’s hearing next month on a case involving the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to remove Trump from the state’s 2024 presidential ballot.
The Colorado court ruled in December that Trump had disqualified himself under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was ratified after the Civil War and states that no person who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States, or given aid or comfort to its enemies, shall hold any federal office.
The court cited Trump’s role in inciting the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, which aimed to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Trump and his allies have appealed the Colorado ruling, as well as a similar one by Maine’s secretary of state, to the Supreme Court, claiming that the 14th Amendment does not apply to him and that barring him from the ballot would violate the rights of millions of voters who support him.
Luttig and Conway, however, urged the Supreme Court to uphold the Colorado decision and to adopt a “textualist” approach to interpreting the Constitution, which focuses on the plain meaning of the words. They argued that Trump engaged in insurrection by encouraging and supporting the mob that stormed the Capitol and that his actions were comparable to those of the secessionists who triggered the Civil War.
They also rejected the argument that the 14th Amendment is outdated and irrelevant to the modern context, saying that the amendment was intended to protect the constitutional order and the peaceful transfer of power, which were threatened by both the 1860s secession and the 2021 insurrection.
They further dismissed the argument that removing Trump from the ballot would be anti-democratic, saying that the Constitution imposes other limits on who can run for office, such as age and citizenship requirements, and that the popular vote does not always determine the outcome of the presidential election, as shown by the Electoral College system.
“Section 3 and these other provisions are not improperly anti-democratic, but rather they set forth foundational rules of the Republic adopted by the People through ratification,” they wrote. “Not much would remain of our Constitution if this Court narrowly enforced the Constitution’s provisions when they potentially frustrate large numbers of voters.”
Luttig and Conway are among the most prominent conservative voices to support the 14th Amendment argument against Trump, which has also been backed by liberal activists and scholars.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the Colorado case on February 7, and to issue a ruling by June. The outcome of the case could have a significant impact on the 2024 presidential race, as Trump has hinted at running again and remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party.