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Understanding the Trump Supreme Court Ruling

Written by Andrew Hermann

Edited by Annika Lilja


Image by Joe Ravi (CC BY-SA 3.0)

On March 4, 2024, the Supreme Court delivered a profound verdict— one that struck down a Colorado Supreme Court’s appeal that Trump violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. This case was the first that reached the Supreme Court discussing the potential prevention of former officeholders who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office again. Trump has been accused of 'incitement of insurrection' after giving a speech immediately before a mass group of his supporters stormed the US Capitol. Ruling a day before Super Tuesday, the justices decided that states cannot invoke a post-Civil War constitutional provision to keep presidential candidates from appearing on ballots. Since then, many other states including California, Michigan, Maine, Vermont, and over ten others have called for his removal from the presidential ballot.


Before diving into the implications of this ruling, let's understand what Trump was in question of violating. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment reads: "No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State,shall hold office if they've previously sworn to support the Constitution and engaged in insurrection or aided enemies, unless Congress votes by two-thirds majority to remove this bar." Trump's lawyers claim this clause does not apply to the President, asserting that its lack of specific mentioning of the president as an “officer of the United States” exempts former President Trump. 


After a long, polarizing debate over whether the president is deemed an officer of the United States, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the former president. Despite all nine justices agreeing that Colorado cannot remove Trump from the ballot, four justices argued that their fellow colleagues should have stopped there. In her argument, Justice Amy Coney Barrett stated “I agree that the United States lacks the power to enforce Section 3 against Presidential candidates…this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency.” Justice Barrett's statement expresses her fervent concern for ensuring the Supreme Court does not overstep its boundaries and maintains its ostensible nonpartisanship. In another minority opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated, “Today, the Court departs from that vital principle, deciding not just this case, but challenges that might arise in the future… It simply creates a special rule for the insurrection disability in Section 3… Although we agree that Colorado cannot enforce Section 3, we protest the majority’s effort to use this case to define the limits of federal enforcement of that provision.” Justice Sotamayor’s statement expresses her concern with the Supreme Court not overreaching in their ruling. 


The effects of this decision were extraordinarily impactful, especially since as of the date of publishing of this article, it appears the 2024 election will be a Trump v. Biden rematch.


 

Sources:


Amy Howe, Supreme Court rules states cannot remove Trump from ballot for insurrection, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 4, 2024, 12:09 PM), 


Sherman, Mark. “Supreme Court Restores Trump to Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts to Ban Him over Capitol Attack.” AP News, AP News, 4 Mar. 2024, 


Sotomayor, Sonia, and Amy Coney Barrett. “23-719 Trump v. Anderson (03/04/2024).” 23-719 Trump v. Anderson, US Supreme Court, 4 Mar. 2024, 

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