Michigan judge says only Congress can keep Trump off of the 2024 ballot

By: - November 15, 2023 8:36 am

Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters in a campaign visit to Council Bluffs on July 7, 2023. He was back in Iowa on July 18 to participate in a cable TV interview. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A Michigan Court of Claims judge on Tuesday agreed with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson that her office lacks the authority to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the ballot for the 2024 Republican primary election.

The ruling by Judge James Robert Redford determined that arguments as to whether Trump should be barred based on wording within the 14th Amendment are “nonjusticiable,” or outside the jurisdiction of the court. Instead, he said their political nature could only be decided by Congress.

Enacted in the wake of the Civil War, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment 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 was 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.

Activist Robert Davis, who is seeking to bar former President Donald Trump from the Michigan ballot, in federal court in Grand Rapids on Nov. 9, 2023 | Screenshot

One case was filed against Benson, a Democrat, by activist Robert Davis. Another lawsuit filed was done on behalf of four Michigan residents represented by the progressive legal advocacy group Free Speech For People. It came after Benson in September declined to kick Trump off the 2024 ballot in Michigan, citing her lack of legal authority to do so. 

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

Benson reacted to the ruling, saying she was “gratified” that it 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.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung also responded to the ruling.

“Each and every one of these ridiculous cases have LOST because they are all un-Constitutional left-wing fantasies orchestrated by monied allies of the Biden campaign seeking to turn the election over to the courts and deny the American people the right to choose their next president,” he said. “While the Trump Campaign welcomes these dismissals in Michigan and anticipates the future dismissals of the other 14th Amendment cases, we are most focused on once again winning the great state of Michigan and the re-election of President Trump next year.” 

Trump won Michigan in 2016 over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by roughly 11,000 votes, but he lost the state to Biden in 2020 by more than 154,000 votes.

Michigan judge fast-tracks lawsuit to force Trump off the ballot in Michigan

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 the ruling would not be the final word on the matter.

“The Court’s decision is disappointing but we will continue, by appealing this ruling, to seek to uphold this critical constitutional provision designed to protect our republic” said Brewer. “Trump led a rebellion and insurrection against the Constitution when he tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election and he is disqualified from ever seeking or holding public office again.”

Brewer said Redford’s “decision did not address Trump’s conduct engaging and leading rebellion and insurrection against the Constitution,” and instead “relied on Michigan law to avoid a hearing on the merits.”

He said the group plans to file an immediate appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, while simultaneously asking the Michigan Supreme Court to take up an appeal directly. 


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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King is the Senior Reporter for the Michigan Advance and 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 2022 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.