Having disqualified himself from public office by violating Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, Donald Trump must be removed from the ballot, according to a lawsuit filed today by six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters including former state, federal and local officials, represented by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the firms Tierney Lawrence Stiles LLC, KBN Law, LLC and Olson Grimsley Kawanabe Hinchcliff & Murray LLC.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, also known as the Disqualification Clause, bars any person from holding federal or state office who took an “oath…to support the Constitution of the United States” and then has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood before the nation and took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” After losing the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump violated that oath by recruiting, inciting and encouraging a violent mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021 in a futile attempt to remain in office.
“If the very fabric of our democracy is to hold, we must ensure that the Constitution is enforced and the same people who attacked our democratic system not be put in charge of it,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said. “We aren’t bringing this case to make a point, we’re bringing it because it is necessary to defend our republic both today and in the future. While it is unprecedented to bring this type of case against a former president, January 6th was an unprecedented attack that is exactly the kind of event the framers of the 14th Amendment wanted to build protections in case of. You don’t break the glass unless there’s an emergency.”
While Section 3 has not been tested often in the last 150 years, due to lack of insurrections, last year CREW represented residents of New Mexico who sued to remove county commissioner Couy Griffin from office, the only successful case to be brought under Section 3 since 1869. The judge in that case determined January 6th was an insurrection under the Constitution and that someone who helped to incite it–even if not personally violent–had engaged in insurrection and was disqualified from office.
“Spending 19 years as a state legislator and serving in leadership gave me the opportunity to work across the aisle and to always work to protect the freedoms our Constitution has given us as citizens,” said former Colorado House and Senate Majority leader Norma Anderson. “I am proud to continue that work by bringing this lawsuit and ensuring the eligibility of candidates on Colorado ballots.”
“In my decade of service in the House of Representatives, I certified multiple presidential elections and saw firsthand the importance of ethics, the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power in our democracy,” said former Republican member of Congress Claudine (Cmarada) Schneider. “This lawsuit is crucial to protecting and fortifying those fundamental democratic values, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
While the stakes surrounding Donald Trump’s disqualification in Colorado are greater than in the Griffin case, the law and many underlying facts are the same. Based on its laws, the calendar, and our courageous set of plaintiffs and witnesses, Colorado is a good venue to bring this first case, but it will not be the last.
“As a longtime Republican who voted for him, I believe Donald Trump disqualified himself from running in 2024 by spreading lies, vilifying election workers, and fomenting an attack on the Capitol,” said conservative columnist for the Denver Post and Republican activist Krista Kafer. “Those who by force and by falsehood subvert democracy are unfit to participate in it. That’s why I am part of this lawsuit to prevent an insurrectionist from appearing on Colorado’s ballot.”