Quick Takes

Group appeals ruling by Michigan judge keeping Trump on the 2024 ballot

By: - November 20, 2023 3:01 pm
Donald Trump speaking at a podium

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a fundraiser for the Alabama Republican Party on Friday, Aug. 4, 2023 in Montgomery, Ala. (Stew Milne for Alabama Reflector)

This story was originally published on Michigan Advance.

A progressive legal advocacy group has followed through on its vow to appeal a ruling last week by a Michigan judge which rejected its claim that former President Donald Trump should be disqualified from the 2024 primary and general election ballots.

Free Speech For People on Thursday said it had filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals, as well as an emergency bypass application seeking immediate review by the Michigan Supreme Court, seeking to overturn Court of Claims Judge James Robert Redford’s decision on Tuesday that the political nature of the issues involved were outside the jurisdiction of the court and could only be decided by Congress.

The group bases their claim that Trump is ineligible to run on wording within Section 3 of the 14th Amendment that disqualifies from public office any individual who has taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution but then engages in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or gives aid or comfort to its enemies. No prior criminal conviction is required.

Trump has been targeted by plaintiffs in cases for his role in “inciting and facilitating” the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, just after the November 2020 general election in which President Joe Biden defeated Trump.

In the appeal filing, Mark Brewer, a former Michigan Democratic Party chair and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by Free Speech for People, said that the Court of Claims had incorrectly dismissed the case.

“It did so by ignoring the right of Michigan voters to have only eligible candidates appear on the ballot, improperly finding the case not ripe, and misapplying the political question doctrine on the basis of overruled case law and discredited analysis, while ignoring the clear authority demonstrating that Section 3 can and must be enforced by state courts,” it stated. “The Court of Claims should be promptly reversed and the case remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the question of whether Trump violated Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The original lawsuit was filed on behalf of four Michigan residents against Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, in September after she declined to kick Trump off the 2024 ballot in Michigan, citing her lack of legal authority to do so. A similar lawsuit was filed by activist Robert Davis.

Redford reached the same conclusion as Benson, ruling that by Michigan law, she “has neither the affirmative duty nor the authority to separately decide” whether or not Trump should appear on the ballot.

Benson said she was “gratified” that Redford’s affirmed her position that “under Michigan law anyone generally advocated by the national news media to be a candidate for the Republican or Democratic nomination for President must be listed on the ballot in our February 2024 primary.”

Benson released a list Monday of eligible candidates for both parties, including Trump on the GOP side.

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.