In a significant development on Tuesday, a Michigan judge dismissed a lawsuit attempting to utilize the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban” to prevent Donald Trump from appearing on the state’s 2024 ballot. The judge also affirmed that Michigan’s secretary of state lacks the authority under state law to determine the former president’s eligibility based on the 14th Amendment, which prohibits individuals who engaged in insurrection from holding office.
The rulings represent a substantial victory for Trump, who currently leads the 2024 Republican presidential primary race, despite facing legal challenges in various states alleging his involvement in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Last week, the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected a similar constitutional challenge against Trump, and a comparable case is pending in Colorado, with a ruling expected later this week. Experts anticipate that, regardless of the initial rulings, these cases are likely to reach the US Supreme Court, potentially settling the issue nationwide.
The liberal advocacy group involved in the Michigan case has announced an “immediate appeal” and intends to request the state Supreme Court’s intervention. The 14th Amendment, enacted after the Civil War, bars individuals who took an oath to uphold the Constitution from future office if they engaged in insurrection. However, the Constitution does not specify how to enforce this ban, and it has been applied only twice since 1919, making these challenges widely viewed as a long shot.
While these rulings maintain Trump’s position on key GOP primary ballots, they leave the door open to future challenges regarding his eligibility in the November 2024 general election.
Michigan Court of Claims Judge James Redford emphasized that questions about Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection should be addressed by elected representatives in Congress, characterizing the matter as a “political question” outside the jurisdiction of the judicial branch. Redford stated, “A court disqualifying Trump would’ve taken that decision away from a body made up of elected representatives of the people of every state in the nation.”
He further argued that he lacked the authority under state law to compel election officials to scrutinize Trump’s eligibility based on the 14th Amendment. Redford’s decision was made in response to two cases seeking to block Trump from the Michigan ballot and a countersuit filed by Trump to preserve his position.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, had already announced the list of names for the 2024 presidential primaries in the state, including Trump. Rejecting arguments from anti-Trump challengers, the judge deemed it premature to disqualify Trump, considering he has not secured the GOP nomination and the 2024 general election has not taken place.
Redford acknowledged that even if Trump were to win the presidency and subsequently face new lawsuits questioning his eligibility, the 20th Amendment provides a process for addressing a president-elect no longer “qualified” to serve, wherein the vice president-elect would ascend to the presidency.
The Trump campaign welcomed the decision, highlighting victories in similar cases in Minnesota and New Hampshire. Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung criticized these legal challenges as “un-Constitutional left-wing fantasies orchestrated by monied allies of the Biden campaign.”
Conversely, Free Speech For People, the advocacy group behind the Michigan and Minnesota cases, condemned the judge’s decision, asserting that he adopted a “discredited theory” about Congress’ role in enforcing the 14th Amendment. The group plans to appeal the decision and continue legal actions in other states to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment against Donald Trump, as stated by Ron Fein, the group’s legal director.