by Larry Pareles
I’m very proud to report that our local constitutional lawyer (and ally) John Bonifaz of Amherst helped file the lawsuit in Minnesota to disqualify Donald Trump from running for office under the rules of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
His organization Free Speech for People joined with local Minnesota voters in a lawsuit to bar Trump from being on the ballot there in 2024. They argue that Trump is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, known as the “Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause,” because he incited the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed the case on November 8 because this involves a primary election. They ruled that Trump can appear on the primary ballot because this isn’t governed by the Constitution. But they left open the possibility that he could be kept off the general election ballot because of his involvement in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Actions under the 14th Amendment are pending in another 20 states.
Enacted after the Civil War, Section 3 disqualifies from public office any person who took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution but then engages in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or gives aid or comfort to its enemies.
Two prominent conservative law professors concluded that this provision in the Constitution indeed bars Donald Trump from being eligible to run for office. The two professors from the Federalist Society wrote this in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.
No permission from Congress required
Attorney Bonifaz states that Trump’s involvement in the violent attack on Congress to stop the certification of the election results and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our nation’s history disqualifies him from holding any future public office. State election officials do not need permission from Congress to enforce Section 3, since they don’t need congressional approval to enforce the U.S. Constitution in general.
“Our predecessors understood that oath-breaking insurrectionists will do it again, and worse, if allowed back into power, so they enacted this clause to protect the republic from people like Trump” said Ron Fein, Legal Director at Free Speech For People. “Trump is legally barred from the ballot and election officials must follow this constitutional mandate.”
Petitioner David Thul, a 22-year veteran of the Minnesota National Guard, explained: “I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and I firmly believe this petition is in keeping with that oath. Trump engaged in an insurrection in an effort to overthrow our democracy. We must enforce the Constitution to make sure he never has the opportunity to do so again.”
“Voting is the foundation of our American democracy,” said petitioner Joan Growe, the former Minnesota Secretary of State. “This petition is the continuation of my work as Secretary of State to protect our democracy and uphold the U.S. Constitution.”
See this video from Free Speech For People about the nationwide effort to “hold insurrectionists accountable for their role in the violent assault on American democracy” on January 6th. Along with others, the group launched TrumpIsDisqualified.org, asking Secretaries of State and election officials across the country to follow Section 14.3 and permanently bar Trump — and all other elected officials who participated in the January 6th insurrection — from any future ballots.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that no one can be barred from appearing on the primary ballot under Section 14.3. But left open the possibility that this section may indeed apply to Trump in the general election. This is a setback but also offers some hope that Trump might be kept off the ballot if a future lawsuit about the general election is successful. Next steps are pending.
Testimony in Colorado
Witness testimony wrapped up last week in Trump’s 14th Amendment disqualification trial in Colorado, preparing for a historic ruling this month.
The trial had testimony from legal scholars who explained the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban,” US Capitol Police officers wounded while fighting the pro-Trump mob on January 6, organizers of the rally that preceded the violence, two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and an expert on right-wing extremism. Closing arguments are November 15 and a ruling is expected soon after that.
A small victory in New Mexico
In September 2022, Judge Francis Mathew of New Mexico’s First District permanently enjoined Otero County Commissioner and “Cowboys for Trump” founder Couy Griffin from office under section 14.3.
Making the case in Massachusetts
Massachusetts’ Secretary of State William Galvin said that he will not bar Trump from the Massachusetts ballot under section 14.3 unless he is convicted. Attorney Bonifaz says that is not necessary because the 14th Amendment doesn’t say anywhere that someone needs to be convicted for this to apply. You can email Secretary Galvin at CIS@sec.state.ma.us or call him at (617) 727-7030 or (800) 392-6090 with your recommendations.
Let’s get all the insurrectionists, including Trump, off our precious ballots.