MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former President Donald Trump will stay on the Minnesota primary ballot after the state supreme court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking end his candidacy under a rarely-used constitutional provision that forbids those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.
The Minnesota Supreme Court declined to become the first in history to use Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to prevent someone from running for the presidency. The court dodged the central question of the lawsuit — does Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol disqualify him from the presidency — by ruling that state law allows parties to put whomever they want on the primary ballot.
“There is no state statute that prohibits a major political party from placing on the presidential nomination primary ballot, or sending delegates to the national convention supporting, a candidate who is ineligible to hold office,” Chief Justice Natalie Hudson ruled.
The court left open the possibility that plaintiffs could try again to knock Trump off the general election ballot in November. The Minnesota challenge was filed by the liberal group Free Speech For People, which said it will continue its campaign to end Trump’s presidential bid.
“We are disappointed by the court’s decision,” said the group’s legal director Ron Fein, who argued before the court at its Nov. 2 hearing on the case. “However, the Minnesota Supreme Court explicitly recognized that the question of Donald Trump’s disqualification for engaging in insurrection against the U.S. Constitution may be resolved at a later stage. The decision isn’t binding on any court outside Minnesota and we continue our current and planned legal actions in other states to enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment against Donald Trump.”
The ruling is the first from a series of lawsuits filed by Free Speech For People and a second liberal group that are seeking to use Section 3 to end the candidacy of the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary.
On his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump said: “Ridiculous 14th Amendment lawsuit just thrown out by Minnesota Supreme Court.” He added, “Congratulations to all who fought this HOAX!”
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 3 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 3 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.
Many legal experts expect the issue to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which has never ruled on Section 3.
Secretaries of State have generally said they don’t have the power to determine Trump should not be on the ballot and have sought guidance from courts. Minnesota’s Democratic Secretary of State, Steve Simon, said in an interview he was happy to have some clarity.
“I am grateful that the Supreme Court acted quickly in providing Minnesotans with certainty about who will be eligible to appear on the ballot for the presidential nominating primary,” Simon said.
Riccardi reported from Washington.