COLORADO — The Supreme Court said Friday it will decide whether former President Donald Trump can be kept off the ballot because of his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, inserting the court squarely in the 2024 presidential campaign.
The justices acknowledged the need to reach a decision quickly, as voters will soon begin casting presidential primary ballots across the country. The court agreed to take up Trump's appeal of a case from Colorado stemming from his role in the events that culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Arguments will be held in early February.
The court will be considering for the first time the meaning and reach of a provision of the 14th Amendment barring some people who “engaged in insurrection” from holding public office. The amendment was adopted in 1868, following the Civil War. It has been so rarely used that the nation's highest court had no previous occasion to interpret it.
"Coloradans, and the American people, deserve clarity on whether someone who engaged in insurrection may run for the country's highest office," Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said in a statement on Friday. "I urge the Court to prioritize this case and issue a ruling as soon as possible."
Colorado's Supreme Court, by a 4-3 vote, ruled last month that Trump should not be on the Republican primary ballot. The decision was the first time the 14th Amendment was used to bar a presidential contender from the ballot.
Mario Nicolais, one of the attorneys representing six Colorado voters who filed the lawsuit to keep Trump off the ballot, said he believes there is a good chance the U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision before the presidential primary on March 5.
“I think they realized this is going to be an issue that every state is going to need to deal with and wrestle with and extending it through the primary would be a recipe for chaos," said Nicolais.
Trump is separately appealing to state court a ruling by Maine’s Democratic secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, that he was ineligible to appear on that state’s ballot over his role in the Capitol attack. Both the Colorado Supreme Court and the Maine secretary of state’s rulings are on hold until the appeals play out.
The high court's decision to intervene, which both sides called for, is the most direct involvement in a presidential election since Bush v. Gore in 2000, when a conservative majority effectively decided the election for Republican George W. Bush. Only Justice Clarence Thomas remains from that court.
Three of the nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Trump, though they have repeatedly ruled against him in 2020 election-related lawsuits, as well as his efforts to keep documents related to Jan. 6 and his tax returns from being turned over to congressional committees.
At the same time, Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have been in the majority of conservative-driven decisions that overturned the five-decade-old constitutional right to abortion, expanded gun rights and struck down affirmative action in college admissions.