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The Colorado judge presiding over a case to keep former President Donald Trump off the state’s 2024 ballot using an “insurrection” clause of the 14th Amendment has been exposed as being potentially compromised.
According to a report from Colorado Politics, Trump attorney Scott Gessler last week sought to have Denver District Court Judge Sarah B. Wallace recuse herself over a $100 donation she made to the Colorado Turnout Project before she took the bench.
“Its website proudly proclaims that the group was formed ‘shortly after Colorado Republicans refused to condemn the political extremists who stormed the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021,’” Gessler wrote in his motion seeking Wallace’s recusal. “A contribution to the Colorado Turnout Project shows support for the view that January 6, 2021, constituted an ‘insurrection.’”
Colorado Politics noted further:
One of the key issues in the case is whether Trump is disqualified from seeking the presidency under the 14th Amendment, which bars federal and state officials from holding office if they engaged in an insurrection against the United States.
At the beginning of the hearing on Monday, Wallace denied Trump’s motion to recuse, while distancing herself from the Colorado Turnout Project and its views on the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
“I do not dispute that on (October 15, 2022), prior to taking the bench, I apparently made a $100 contribution to the Colorado Turnout Project. That being said, prior to yesterday, I was not cognizant of this organization or its mission,” Wallace said in response. “It has always been my practice, whether I was entirely successful or not, to make contributions to individuals, not PACs (political action committees).”
“I can assure all of the litigants that prior to the start of this litigation and to this day, I have formed no opinion whether the events of Jan. 6 constituted an insurrection,” Wallace continued, or whether the former president “engaged in an insurrection or, for that matter, any of the issues that need to be decided in this hearing.”
That said, however, Colorado Politics noted that Wallace did not address the standard for recusal noted in the code of judicial conduct. It directs a recusal when the impartiality of a judge “might reasonably be questioned.” The state Supreme Court has previously held that should a judge’s involvement create even an appearance of impropriety, it would only question the outcome of an appeal if there is actual evidence of bias, Colorado Politics reported.
Wallace was an attorney in private practice before she became a judge in January.
That said, the issue of whether Trump engaged in an “insurrection” on Jan. 6, 2021, is likely to be a central question in the case. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars Americans who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding elective office.
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” Section 3 of the amendment reads. “But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
Colorado law bars judges and judicial candidates from making political contributions, the Western Journal noted. The 2024 Colorado Republican presidential primary is scheduled for March 5.
Earlier this week, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against challengers trying to keep Trump off the ballot in that state.
The court issued an order on Wednesday “saying neither the courts nor election officials in the state have the authority to prevent the Republican Party from placing Trump as a candidate on the GOP primary ballot.”
Five justices weighed in on the issue, while two recused themselves, The Hill reported.