Michigan judge denies request to declare Trump disqualified under 14th Amendment, remove him from ballot

November 15, 2023
Ben Marquis

Opponents of former President Donald Trump have filed lawsuits in multiple states that aim to bar Trump from appearing on election ballots due to his supposed disqualification under the auspices of the "insurrection" clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.

One such lawsuit in Michigan was just dismissed by a judge who ruled that Trump could appear on the state's primary and general election ballots next year, according to The Hill.

The judge essentially ruled that Trump couldn't be removed from the primary ballot since all relevant laws were followed to place his name there as a candidate, and further declared that the broader question about Trump's eligibility for the presidency was one for Congress, and not the courts, to ultimately decide.

Anti-Trump group sought Trump's removal from ballots, declaration of ineligibility

The Associated Press reported that a left-leaning organization known as Free Speech for People filed the lawsuit in Michigan -- as well as in several other states -- which argues that former President Trump is disqualified from being re-elected or even appearing on ballots due to the 14th Amendment.

Specifically, they point to Section 3 of that post-Civil War amendment and the disqualification for public office it meted out to anybody who previously took an oath of office prior to engaging in an "insurrection or rebellion" or providing aid and comfort to others who had done so -- a prohibition squarely aimed at former Confederate officers and politicians in the newly reunified states.

The arguments presented were deemed unpersuasive by Court of Claims Judge James Redford, however, and he cited other dismissed or defeated lawsuits on the same subject in other states as the basis for his reasoning.

Judge rules Trump can appear on the primary ballot

In his 21-page opinion and order, Judge Redford denied the requests that he declare former President Trump ineligible to be president again under the auspices of the 14th Amendment as well as to issue permanent injunctions blocking the Michigan Secretary of State from including Trump's name as a candidate on both the primary and general election ballots in 2024.

With regard to the inclusion of Trump's name on the primary ballot, the judge determined that Trump and the Michigan Republican Party had satisfied the minimal legislatively-enacted requirements for doing so and therefore couldn't be blocked from appearing on the ballots, and cited a recent similar conclusion from the Minnesota Supreme Court.

And, like the Minnesota ruling, Redford decided that the effort to bar Trump from the general election ballot was "not ripe" or not "about to occur" and as such couldn't yet be addressed by the court.

Trump's eligibility a "political question" for Congress and not courts to decide

As for the demand that former President Trump be declared disqualified and ineligible to hold office under the 14th Amendment, Judge Redford ruled that that was a "nonjusticiable political question" that was a matter for Congress, and not the courts, to decide.

He pointed to the "well-thought-out analysis and conclusion" of a New Hampshire court that similarly dismissed the same request and also highlighted numerous other clauses and amendments within the U.S. Constitution that made it clear that Congress and Congress alone have the right and responsibility to determine who is and isn't eligible or qualified to serve as president.

The judge further highlighted the "inappropriateness" of the judicial branch in resolving political questions, as doing so removes the decision-making from Congress and "gives it to but one judicial officer, a person who no matter how well-intentioned, evenhanded, fair and learned, cannot in any manner or form possibly embody the represented qualities of every citizen of the nation -- as does the House of Representatives and the Senate."

Statements in response to the court's ruling

In response to the ruling, Free Speech for People's legal director Ron Fein said, "We are disappointed by the trial court’s decision, and we’re appealing it immediately," and added, "The Michigan Supreme Court should reverse this badly-reasoned lower court decision. While our appeal is pending, the trial court’s decision isn’t binding on any other court, and we continue our current and planned legal actions in other states to enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment against Donald Trump."

As for Trump and his campaign, spokesman Steven Cheung noted this and other losses in other states and said in a statement, "Each and every one of these ridiculous cases have LOST because they are all un-Constitutional left-wing fantasies orchestrated by monied allies of the Biden campaign seeking to turn the election over to the courts and deny the American people the right to choose their next president."

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