Former President Donald Trump is confronted with a significant legal challenge following a judge’s ruling in Colorado characterizing his actions on January 6, 2021, as an insurrection. The decision by Judge Sarah Wallace has become a focal point in a contentious ballot dispute, with Trump and his opponents vigorously appealing various aspects of the ruling.
In this Colorado case, spearheaded by voters supported by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the objective is to set a precedent for a broader campaign seeking to disqualify Trump from participating in the 2024 presidential election. The plaintiffs argue that Trump’s involvement in the Capitol attack disqualifies him under the 14th Amendment, which prohibits individuals who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from running for federal office.
While Wallace’s November 17 ruling spares Trump from immediate disqualification by asserting he was not an “officer of the United States” as defined by the 14th Amendment, it underscores the gravity of his role in the Capitol attack. The judge explicitly states that Trump “engaged in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, through incitement,” with legal experts emphasizing the seriousness of this insurrectionist finding.
Law professor Andrea Katz describes Wallace’s ruling as “deadly serious” for Trump, suggesting its potential influence on other courts, including the Colorado Supreme Court. Katz highlights the departure from the notion that the president is not an “officer” and discusses the historical context of the 14th Amendment debates, aiming to prevent Confederate rebels from holding federal office.
Constitutional law professor Peter Shane notes the peculiar nature of the lower court’s opinion where Trump seemingly “won” on the easier issue for the plaintiffs. Shane supports the determination that Trump’s acts constituted engaging in insurrection against the Constitution, foreseeing challenges in overturning such findings.
However, the political implications of excluding Trump from the ballot are considered “daunting.” Over a dozen attorneys general from Republican-controlled states have entered briefs in the case, while a group of 19 Republican-leaning states advocates for Congress to handle Insurrection Clause questions rather than state officials or state courts.
As the legal saga unfolds, all eyes are on the Colorado Supreme Court’s deliberations, recognizing the potential impact on Trump’s political future and the broader legal landscape awaiting the former president.