Over the next five days, a Denver judge will preside over a trial to decide whether former President Trump should be disqualified from appearing on Colorado's 2024 ballot. This novel legal challenge invokes the 14th Amendment and argues that Trump's alleged involvement in the January 6th Capitol siege disqualifies him from running for national office again. The trial marks the first time evidence and testimony will be presented in a case filed under this provision of the Civil War-era amendment.
The lawsuit, brought by current and former Colorado Republicans, including unaffiliated voters, is being spearheaded by the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The plaintiffs contend that Trump, through his actions and rhetoric, encouraged the attack on the Capitol and attempted to overturn the 2020 election results. The case also names Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who is responsible for supervising elections and certifying the statewide ballot.
The key question in this trial is whether Trump's alleged involvement qualifies as insurrection or rebellion, as outlined in the 14th Amendment. Legal experts see a credible argument that the events of January 6th can be classified as an insurrection, but the burden of proof and the interpretation of the amendment's provision remain unsettled. Trump's legal team, which includes former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, argues that the suit is an attack on the former president's First Amendment rights and denies allegations that he incited the Capitol attack.
The outcome of this trial will have significant implications, not just for Colorado but also for similar ballot challenges against Trump in other states. Cases invoking the 14th Amendment are being pursued in Minnesota and Michigan, highlighting that this legal battle extends beyond party lines. The question of free speech plays a pivotal role in these lawsuits, as does determining the extent of Trump's involvement in the attack. Lawyers anticipate that the trial's final ruling could eventually escalate to the U.S. Supreme Court.
While the specific evidence and witnesses for this trial have yet to be revealed, the plaintiffs have indicated their intention to present part of the U.S. House Jan. 6 select committee's final report. Trump's legal team has expressed concerns about the report's bias. Testimony from members of Congress may also be heard during the trial, although details regarding who will be called to testify and when remain unclear. However, Trump himself is not expected to appear in court or testify this week.
Denver District Court Judge Sarah B. Wallace will preside over this case without a jury. A final hearing is scheduled for November 15th, with a ruling expected by the end of November. This timeline allows for possible appeals and gives Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold enough time to certify the primary election ballot, which Trump hopes to appear on. As the trial unfolds, the outcome of this landmark case could shape the future of presidential eligibility requirements and the interpretation of the 14th Amendment.