The latest legal attempt to prevent a potential 2024 Trump candidacy has become a source of frustration for many conservatives. What’s particularly irksome is the attempt to portray this effort as bipartisan, with some conservative legal scholars lending support to a controversial interpretation of the 14th Amendment, specifically Section III. This interpretation alleges that Trump led an insurrection or rebellion on January 6, despite the lack of conclusive evidence.
Recent developments include lawsuits in eight states aimed at keeping Trump off their ballots for the 2024 election. John Anthony Castro, a Republican presidential candidate, has spearheaded these legal challenges. While many of these states may not be competitive in the 2024 election, excluding Trump from their ballots could complicate his path to winning the Electoral College. Castro’s candidacy as a write-in candidate forms the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision to hear arguments in the case of John Castro v. Donald Trump, with a final opinion expected by October 9.
The core of Castro’s lawsuit hinges on the argument that he is personally injured by Trump’s candidacy, causing a competitive injury by diminishing his potential votes. The lawsuit contends that Trump’s actions on January 6, including contesting the vote count and delivering a speech, constitute acts of insurrection or rebellion, rendering him ineligible for office. This legal attack had previously targeted Rep. Madison Cawthorn and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, with the latter’s case being dismissed and the former being defeated in his primary election.
The critical point of contention in this effort will be the state secretaries of state, responsible for determining candidates’ eligibility to run. Historically, their role has been limited to verifying age, citizenship, and residency—the only constitutional requirements. The number of cases challenging Trump’s eligibility will play a role in their decision, aided by legal arguments suggesting the conservative case for barring Trump from office.
As the primaries conclude and general election ballots are prepared, one or more secretaries of state may decide to exclude Trump from the ballot. However, Greene’s victory in her lawsuit sets a precedent, indicating that such attempts by the political class to subvert the will of the voters may lack standing. In Florida, another lawsuit aimed at disqualifying Trump was dismissed by an Obama-appointed judge due to a lack of evidence demonstrating how the plaintiffs were “injured” by the events of January 6.
Ultimately, the fate of this legal sideshow will be decided in October, with the outcome determining whether this contentious issue finally comes to a close or if it leads to further turmoil akin to the events of January 6.