Judge Allows Trump on Michigan Primary Ballot as Critics Try to Bar Him

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz/Pool/Getty Images/TNS/File)

(The Washington Post) — A judge on Tuesday ruled Donald Trump can appear on the primary ballot in Michigan, delivering the latest setback to those who contend Trump sparked an insurrection Jan. 6, 2021, and is barred from running for president again as a result.

An appeal is expected and could ultimately be resolved by the Michigan Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court. The case mirrors those in other states that contend Trump can’t run because of a provision of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment that bars officials from holding office if they engage in insurrection.

State Judge James Robert Redford wrote that courts don’t have the authority to determine whether someone is eligible to run for office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. In addition, Redford ruled that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) does not have the authority under state law to remove candidates from the ballot based on that provision.

Redford issued three opinions, in response to two lawsuits brought by Trump’s opponents and a countersuit filed by Trump. His rulings came a week after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in a similar case that Trump could not be removed from the primary ballot in that state. Both lawsuits were brought by voters with the assistance of the liberal group Free Speech for People.

A Colorado judge is expected to rule this month in a third case. Trump opponents have been bringing their lawsuits state by state in hopes of ultimately securing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that keeps the leading Republican candidate off the ballot in all states. The cases are moving quickly because caucuses and primaries will be held starting in January.

Adopted in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to those born or naturalized in the United States and guaranteed civil rights to all Americans, including those who had been enslaved. The amendment’s lesser-known Section 3 was aimed at limiting the power of former Confederates by barring from office those who had sworn an oath to the Constitution and later engaged in insurrection.

The Michigan voters who brought the lawsuit argued the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was an insurrection and that Trump participated in it by urging his supporters that day to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” as Congress debated certifying the election results.

They wanted the judge to order Benson to keep his name off the ballot. Benson said she did not believe state law gave her the power to remove candidates from the ballot based on Section 3, but she would abide by whatever the court decided.

In Michigan and other states, Trump’s attorneys have argued the attack was not an insurrection, Trump did not participate in it and Trump told his supporters to act peacefully. In addition, they have contended Section 3 does not apply to the presidency and said Congress, not courts, should determine who is eligible to hold office.

The ruling applies only to Michigan, a swing state that Trump won in 2016 and lost in 2020, but hinders efforts to push Trump off the ballot in other states. Free Speech for People announced it would ask the Michigan Supreme Court to take up the latest decision quickly.

“The Court’s decision is disappointing but we will continue, by appealing this ruling, to seek to uphold this critical constitutional provision designed to protect our republic,” said Mark Brewer, an attorney for the voters who brought the case.

Trump did not immediately comment on the case.

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