The Michigan judiciary recently dismissed an appeal to disqualify former President Donald Trump from contention in the 2024 election, based on claims that he breached the ‘insurrectionist ban’ detailed in the U.S. Constitution.
This ruling appears notably diverse from the recent judgment by the Colorado Supreme Court, which excised Trump from their state’s primary ballot, citing his purported role in the Capitol disturbance on January 6th. As the nation prepares for the 2024 primary elections, these opposing outcomes illuminate the paramount importance of any upcoming appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case brought before in Michigan, unlike its Colorado counterpart, was discarded without ever proceeding to trial. Michigan’s court of appeals – an institution tasked with reviewing decisions made by lower courts – substantiated the original dismissal of the case.
According to the initial judge, from Michigan’s Court of Claims, the state’s election regulation does not account for enabling electoral authorities to authenticate the eligibility of presidential primary aspirants.
The judge further hinted that the legal system had no jurisdiction over this issue as it was fundamentally a political one. Interestingly, the Michigan Supreme Court did not publicize any voting tally and left the decision unsigned. Unlike Colorado’s judiciary, Michigan’s courts fully rejected the case on procedural grounds without broaching the topic of Trump’s alleged involvement in the January 6 insurrection.
In one op-ed, a Michigan justice provided some clarity on why their state’s ruling deviated from that of Colorado. ‘There isn’t a comparable stipulation in Michigan’s election legislation that requires a presidential candidate to attest to their legal competency for office,’ Justice Elizabeth Welch penned, drawing parallels between the laws of Michigan and Colorado.
The 14th Amendment, ratified after the Civil War, disallows individuals ‘engaged in insurrection’ who pledge their allegiance to the Constitution to hold public office. Many ex-Confederates found themselves disqualified due to the provision. However, the Amendment’s language is ambiguous and does not specifically mention the presidency. Moreover, there have only been a meager two instances where it was applied post-1919.
A distinct group leaning towards liberal ideologies filed a lawsuit in Colorado against this backdrop. Colorado’s top judiciary, the Supreme Court, solely consists of Democrat-nominated justices, who produced a contentious and pioneering verdict last week. By a narrow 4-3 outcome, the supreme court of the state ruled in favor of disqualifying Trump from participating in Colorado’s Republican primary election in 2024.
This ruling has sparked a fair amount of debate, largely due to its reliance on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prevents those accused of engaging in an insurrection from running for federal office. Several critics have framed this decision as politically influenced and representing a hazardous precedent for the American political landscape.
Ty Cobb, previously assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, has speculated that the U.S. Supreme Court will overwhelmingly overturn Colorado’s ruling, effectively reinstating Trump’s eligibility for the 2024 ballot in the state. During a CNN interview, Cobb – who once defended Trump’s administration against Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s unfounded investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion – opined that despite Trump’s 2020 election contestation being a ‘disaster’ for the Republican party, the country’s top court will reverse Colorado’s controversial decision.
Cobb projects a swift resolution for this case, suggesting the Supreme Court could deliver a unanimous 9-0 ruling in favor of Trump. The observations and predictions shared by Cobb, given his legal background and understanding of the political climate, add a layer of intrigue to the dialogue surrounding the upcoming 2024 election and the impact of these contradicting rulings.
With these court decisions, the political dynamics in Michigan and Colorado have indeed taken unique directions. While Colorado’s court seems inclined to use historical constitutional amendments to disqualify a presidential candidate, Michigan’s courts are steering clear of being the arbiters of political disputes. These standpoints, despite being valid interpretations of the law within their respective states, may create divisive precedents for future electoral endeavors.
Further complicating matters is the high degree of subjectivity one can argue is inherent in the interpretation of the Constitution. The clause referring to ‘insurrection’ is vague, and in the absence of clear, objective criteria for what comprises an insurrection, different courts find themselves drawing varying conclusions.
Despite discrepancies in regional court rulings, these cases highlight the imperative need for constitutional clarity concerning candidate eligibility. The political question doctrine, traditionally used to maintain the courts’ distance from political affairs, may need to be reviewed or evolved to better accommodate such high-stakes candidacy disputes. Arguably, the years to come will witness intricate legal debates over these rulings, shaping the contours of the American legal and electoral systems.
It’s also a testament to the strength of the American judiciary system that each state can make its own independent decisions based on the interpretation of existing laws, without fear of influence or coercion. Such contrasting decisions from courts may raise eyebrows, but they also affirm the independence preserved within the United States’ judicial branches.
However, the deliberations of the U.S. Supreme Court, as the ultimate forum for such contrasting regional verdicts, will undoubtedly be watched with bated breath by the country at large. Given the pivotal nature of their anticipated decision, the nation’s Supreme Court is poised at the crossroads of an unprecedented constitutional crisis.
These conflicting legal perspectives offer a unique insight into the multifaceted interpretations of American constitutional law. Despite the turmoil, it’s these very debates that underpin the democratic fabric of U.S. politics, reaffirming the importance of independent judiciary decisions.
Whatever the forthcoming decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, it is bound to have far-reaching impacts on the political landscape, potentially setting a constitutional precedent for election eligibility. These ripple effects underscore the magnitude and intricacies of the impending 2024 U.S. Presidential race, spotlighting its significance amidst a complex web of legal and constitutional issues.