Former US President Donald Trump arrives back from a break at New York Supreme Court during his civil fraud trial on November 6, 2023 in New York City.
Adam Gray | AFP | Getty Images
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to bar former President Donald Trump from the 2024 primary ballot under a constitutional provision that forbids those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.
The state’s high court declined to become the first in history to use Section Three of the 14th Amendment to prevent someone from running for the presidency. However, it said in its ruling the decision applied only to the state’s primary and left open the possibility that plaintiffs could try again to knock Trump off the general election ballot in November.
The ruling is the first to come in a series of lawsuits filed by liberal groups that are seeking to use Section Three to end the candidacy of the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary by citing his role in the violent Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol that was intended to halt certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
Trump has attacked the lawsuits as “frivolous” attempts by “radical Democrat dark money groups” to short-circuit democracy by interfering with his attempt to regain the White House.
The provision at issue bars from office anyone who swore an oath to the constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” against it. It was mainly used to prevent former Confederates from taking over state and federal government positions after the Civil War.
The plaintiffs in the cases contend that Section Three is simply another qualification for the presidency, just like the Constitution’s requirement that a president be at least 35 years old. They filed in Minnesota because the state has a quick process to challenge ballot qualifications, with the case heard directly by the state’s highest court.
Trump’s attorneys argued that Section Three has no power without Congress laying out the criteria and procedures for applying it, that the Jan. 6 attack doesn’t meet the definition of insurrection and that the former president was simply using his free speech rights. They also argued that the clause doesn’t apply to the office of the presidency, which is not mentioned in the text.
Parallel cases are being heard in other states, including Colorado, where a state judge has scheduled closing arguments for next week.