Attorneys representing former President Donald Trump are arguing against an attempt to exclude him from the 2024 ballot using a seldom-used “insurrection” clause of the Constitution, claiming that it infringes upon his freedom of speech. The legal filing was presented in a Colorado court and constitutes a significant challenge to Trump’s candidacy based on the 14th Amendment’s Civil War-era clause. The challenges stem from Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and his alleged involvement in inciting the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. The lawyers assert that Trump’s actions were protected speech and that the 14th Amendment only applies to those who engaged in insurrection or rebellion, not those who instigated such behavior.
Furthermore, the attorneys argue that the challenge should be dismissed because Trump is not yet an official candidate according to Colorado election law, which they contend is not designed to resolve constitutional disputes. They filed a motion under Colorado’s anti-SLAPP law, which protects individuals from lawsuits that target constitutionally protected behavior. This filing will be the first 14th Amendment challenge to be considered openly in court among multiple states. Denver District Judge Sarah B. Wallace has scheduled a hearing on the motion for October 13th, followed by a hearing on the constitutional issues on October 30th. It is anticipated that the matter will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court, as the Court has never previously taken a case involving this particular provision of the 14th Amendment.
The challenge presented in Colorado is noteworthy because it is the first filed by an organization with substantial legal resources, in this case, a liberal group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Another liberal group, Free Speech For The People, has also filed a challenge to Trump’s candidacy in Minnesota, and it is scheduled to be heard by the state’s high court on November 2nd. Section Three of the 14th Amendment prohibits individuals from holding office if they previously pledged allegiance to the Constitution but then engaged in insurrection or rebellion against it. Originally aimed at preventing former Confederate officials from gaining power, Trump contends that he is protected by freedom of speech, employing a defense similar to his criminal cases related to the January 6th attack. However, prosecutors and legal experts argue that his offenses extend beyond speech, as he allegedly attempted to organize fraudulent electors to make him president again. In response to concerns about threats and intimidation, the court issued an order to prevent such behavior in the case.