Maine’s Top Court Declines To Weigh In On Trump Ballot Access, Punts To SCOTUS

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The Maine Supreme Court refrained from deciding this week whether former President Donald Trump would be disqualified from appearing on the state’s ballot, opting to wait for an anticipated ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

A state superior court judge put a halt to Democratic Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ declaration on December 28 that Trump was not eligible to appear on the ballot, citing Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. On February 8, the US Supreme Court will consider Trump’s appeal of the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision from December 19 that disqualified him from that state’s election.

“We now dismiss the appeal because we conclude that it is interlocutory and that no statutory or judicially created exception to our rule requiring a final judgment on appeal applies,” the Maine Supreme Court’s decision said in response to Bellows’ appeal on the hold.

Special Counsel Jack Smith obtained a four-count indictment against Trump in August. The charges consist of conspiracy to deceive the United States, conspiracy against the right to vote and have one’s vote counted, and conspiracy to obstruct and hinder the Jan. 6 proceedings. Smith did not charge Trump with inciting insurrection.

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“The Secretary of State suggests that there is irreparable harm because a delay in certainty about whether Trump’s name should appear on the primary ballot will result in voter confusion,” the court said in the unanimous, unsigned opinion. “This uncertainty is, however, precisely what guides our decision not to undertake immediate appellate review in this particular case. Multiple alternative outcomes would be more effectively addressed through the Superior Court’s order of remand to the Secretary of State.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided late Friday afternoon to take an emergency appeal from attorneys for Trump after the Colorado Supreme Court booted him from that state’s 2024 ballot last month.

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The nation’s highest court said that all briefs filed in the case are due by Jan. 31 and that the justices would hear oral arguments on Feb. 8, Fox News reported.

“The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The case is set for oral argument on Thursday, February 8, 2024,” the decision said. “Petitioner’s brief on the merits, and any amicus curiae briefs in support or support of neither party, are to be filed on or before Thursday, January 18, 2024.”

At the same time, the high court issued a stay of Colorado’s order, instructing that state’s secretary of state to place Trump’s name back on the ballot pending the final decision in the case.

The Colorado court barred Trump under the 14th Amendment’s provision banning “officers” of the United States who engaged in “insurrection” from running for elected office. Supreme Court justices will likely consider the meaning of the phrase “engaged in insurrection” when making their decisions.

Post-Civil War ratification of the 14th Amendment prohibits “engaged in insurrection” from holding public office for officials who pledge allegiance to the Constitution. Aside from its ambiguous language and lack of specific reference to the presidency, this provision has seen only two applications since 1919.

Democratic governors of Colorado appointed all seven justices to the state’s highest court. To remain on the bench, six of the seven judges went on to win statewide retention elections. The seventh has not yet been put to the vote since she was appointed in 2021. The ruling was hardly unanimous at 4-3, however.

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Trump has condemned the 14th Amendment litigation as an abuse of the judicial process and denies any wrongdoing about January 6. He has entered a not-guilty plea to federal and state charges related to his efforts to reverse the 2020 election.

Before the unprecedented ruling, a lengthy list of parties, including over a dozen attorneys general from states controlled by Republicans, had filed briefs in a legal challenge to the constitutional eligibility of Trump to appear on Colorado’s 2024 ballot.

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