Appeals Court rejects lawsuit seeking to toss Ryan Kelley from ballot

By: - July 21, 2022 8:41 pm

Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley attends a right-wing rally at the state Capitol, Feb. 8, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

Updated 11:45 a.m., 7/22/2022 with comments from Progress Michigan

A lawsuit seeking to prevent Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley from being on the general election ballot in November has been rejected by the Michigan Court of Appeals (COA).

In an order released Thursday, the panel said the lawsuit had been filed less than 28 days before the Aug. 2 primary, and thus “did not speedily request relief.” 

The suit, filed July 14 by Oakland County voter Lee Estes, cited federal charges brought against Kelley in connection to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection attempt and attack on the U.S. Capitol building. 

It alleged that because he had “engaged in insurrection” he had violated the 14th Amendment and thus was “ineligible to serve as a candidate for Governor for the State of Michigan.” The lawsuit called Kelley “a clear and present danger to democracy in Michigan.”

However, in its order, the COA ruled that because Kelley had only been charged in the case, and not convicted, “the extraordinary remedy” being sought in denying him a spot on the ballot could not be provided. 

The liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan, which assisted with research and financial support for the suit, said the action was “potentially the first 14th Amendment complaint in the country where the defendant has been indicted for their role in the January 6 insurrection.” 

Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott said the organization is “disappointed with the court’s decision” but “knew the timing would make immediate relief difficult.”

“However, it’s important to note that the court specifically stated it was not ruling on whether or not Kelley had participated in insurrection and should remain a candidate – they ruled only on procedural grounds, leaving open the option to further pursue legal action if Kelley is somehow able to win the Republican primary,” Scott said. “The Constitution makes clear that all insurrectionists should be ineligible to serve, and we will continue to pursue all avenues to make sure that’s the case here in Michigan.”

Kelley, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, was arrested June 9 during a raid by the FBI at his Allendale Township home.

Kelley traveled to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, to take part in the protests that preceded the attack by former President Donald Trump supporters on the Capitol.

While Kelley has vigorously maintained he never entered the building, authorities allege he climbed through scaffolding for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration stage and then motioned for rioters to advance. 

Kelley is facing four counts: knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds on Jan. 6, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, knowingly engaging in any act of physical violence against person or property in any restricted building or grounds, and willfully injuring or committing any depredation against any property of the United States. After pleading not guilty earlier this month, Kelley’s next court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 22.

The Republican candidate previously said in a lengthy news release that the “claims of insurrection are laughable.”

“Yes, I am on the ballot Aug. 2,” Kelley said. “Yes, I will be on the ballot Nov. 8. Yes, we will defeat Gretchen Whitmer and return Michigan to freedom, liberty and prosperity.”

Kelley is one of five Republicans running in the Aug. 2 primary, along with businessman Kevin Rinke, right-wing media personality Tudor Dixon, chiropractor Garrett Soldano and the Rev. Ralph Rebandt. The winner will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.


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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.