Attorneys for former U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday filed an expected appeal in the Maine Superior Court after the secretary of state barred the Republican front-runner from the state’s 2024 primary ballot in response to formal legal challenges from voters.
Trump’s presidential campaign had vowed to fight against Maine Democratic Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ determination last week that he is not qualified to serve as president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution after inciting the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
In the Tuesday filing, Trump’s team argues that Bellows “was a biased decisionmaker who should have recused herself and otherwise failed to provide lawful due process,” lacked legal authority to consider the federal constitutional issues presented by the challengers, and “made multiple errors of law and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.”
Bellows pointed out to The Associated Press on Tuesday that she had suspended her decision until the courts rule on any appeal.
“This is part of the process. I have confidence in my decision and confidence in the rule of law,” she told the AP of Trump’s appeal. “This is Maine’s process and it’s really important that first and foremost every single one of us who serves in government uphold the Constitution and the laws of the state.”
The battle in Maine comes as the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to hear a challenge to Trump’s eligibility in Colorado, where the state Supreme Court kicked him off the primary ballot last month, also citing the 14th Amendment.
The Colorado Republican Party asked the nation’s highest court to weigh in on the case, which was launched by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and law firms representing GOP and unaffiliated voters.
As the Colorado voters’ legal team filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, CREW president and CEO Noah Bookbinder said in a statement that “Donald Trump’s unprecedented actions on January 6, 2021 unquestionably bar him from Colorado primary ballots under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, as determined by the Colorado Supreme Court.”
“Today’s brief underscores that Section 3 applies to former presidents, that our clients had the right to bring this challenge under Colorado state law, and that the First Amendment does not allow a state party to list disqualified candidates on the ballot,” he added. “It is crucial that the Supreme Court take up and review this case quickly so that Colorodans and the American public have complete clarity on Donald Trump’s eligibility before casting their ballots.”
While Trump appointed three current members of the U.S. Supreme Court — Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — congressional Democrats have called on conservative Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from the Colorado case and any similar ones, given that his wife, Ginni Thomas, participated in the far-right effort to overthrow the 2020 election.
Both Bellows and Colorado Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold have faced threats because of Trump’s disqualifications.
Laurence Tribe, the Carl M. Loeb University professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, and Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor who is now of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy, defended Bellows’ decision in a Tuesday opinion piece published by The Boston Globe.
“Bellows’ decision enacted, in word and in deed, the too rarely remembered reality that the fair interpretation and faithful application of statutory as well as constitutional law is entrusted no less to executives than to judges — and that the U.S. system for electing presidents expressly empowers state legislatures to decide how each state’s selection is to be made,” the pair wrote.
“While we await that appeal and the Supreme Court’s decision to review the Colorado Supreme Court’s disqualification ruling, Bellows’ decision stands as a paradigm,” they added. “We are all witnesses to how a fearless public official exercises her delegated state authority in our Constitution’s intricate federal system.”
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