Michigan Supreme Court rejects 14th Amendment election challenge to Trump

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(NEW YORK) — The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal aimed at barring former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 Republican primary ballot based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

In doing so, Michigan’s high court upheld a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling earlier this month that rejected an earlier appeal filed by the watchdog group Free Speech For People on behalf of a group of Michigan voters.

The group had sought to remove Trump from the ballot based on his activity surrounding the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by his supporters and filed an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court shortly after that ruling.

The ruling in the battleground state comes days after the Colorado Supreme Court made the historic move last week to ban Trump from that state’s GOP primary ballot — a first-of-its-kind order in which the majority of the court said the former president “engaged in insurrection” on Jan. 6. Trump’s team has said that decision will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

The Michigan Supreme Court rejected the FSFP’s appeal on procedural grounds, saying it was not “persuaded that the questions presented” should be reviewed by that court.

FSFP said it was “disappointed” by the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision, noting in a statement that the high court did not rule on a number of questions concerning the legal theories advanced in the lawsuit. “It simply declined to overrule a lower court ruling that the Michigan state challenge process does not allow challenges to presidential candidates at the primary stage,” the group said.

Trump celebrated the Michigan Supreme Court ruling in a post on his social media platform. “The Michigan Supreme Court has strongly and rightfully denied the Desperate Democrat attempt to take the leading Candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election, me, off the ballot in the Great State of Michigan,” he said.

Trump called the 14th Amendment challenges a “pathetic gambit,” adding, “Colorado is the only State to have fallen prey to the scheme.”

The Michigan 14th Amendment cases never reached a trial to review evidence, unlike in Colorado. Oral arguments took place in a Michigan Court of Claims in early November for three lawsuits: two that challenged Trump’s eligibility, suing Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to keep Trump off the ballot, and a third lawsuit filed by the former president suing Benson. That suit demanded it be declared she has no authority to do so. A Michigan Court of Claims judge dismissed the first two suits and upheld the third.

FSFP then filed an appeal with with the Michigan Court of Appeals in its challenge seeking to keep Trump off the state’s primary and general election ballots. That court rejected the effort, saying in a 3-0 opinion that the plaintiff’s challenge was not “ripe” on procedural grounds. It did not specifically rule on whether Trump fell under the disqualification clause.

While the court did not release a vote count, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth M. Welch dissented, contrasting the Michigan and Colorado 14th Amendment cases, specifically comparing Michigan law with Colorado’s election code.

“The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision was preceded by a lengthy evidentiary proceeding in a trial court that developed the factual record necessary to resolve the complicated legal questions at issue,” Welch wrote, “Significantly, Colorado’s election laws differ from Michigan’s laws in a material way that is directly relevant to why the appellants in this case are not entitled to the relief they seek concerning the presidential primary election in Michigan.”

The plaintiffs “have identified no analogous provision in the Michigan Election Law that requires someone seeking the office of President of the United States to attest to their legal qualification to hold the office,” she added.

Ron Fein, legal director of FSFP, said in a statement that the Michigan Supreme Court “ruling conflicts with longstanding US Supreme Court precedent that makes clear that when political parties use the election machinery of the state to select, via the primary process, their candidates for the general election, they must comply with all constitutional requirements in that process. However, the Michigan Supreme Court did not rule out that the question of Donald Trump’s disqualification for engaging in insurrection against the U.S. Constitution may be resolved at a later stage.”

Fein said that their organization would continue with “current and planned legal actions in other states to enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment against Donald Trump.”

ABC News’ Lalee Ibssa contributed to this report.

 

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