Court Battles

Ex-federal judge says Supreme Court has no ‘legitimate off-ramps’ to avoid Trump decision

Retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig said Thursday the Supreme Court has no “legitimate off-ramps” to avoid a decision on whether former President Trump should be kicked off the 2024 presidential ballot, as the court hears oral arguments on the issue.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in December that Trump is disqualified from the election because his conduct surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot qualifies as inciting insurrection and that his candidacy is thus in violation of the 14th Amendment. Trump appealed the ruling to the high court.

Luttig, a conservative who served on the 4th Circuit of Appeals for 25 years, predicted the Supreme Court is likely looking for any way to avoid a substantive ruling on the Trump disqualification case, but there really isn’t one available.

“The Supreme Court finds itself in a very precarious position today,” Luttig said in an MSNBC interview. “Undoubtedly, it doesn’t want to decide this case, and it will be looking for all legitimate off-ramps to decide that the former president is disqualified. But there are no legitimate off-ramps to that decision.”

Legal scholars have predicted the court could rule that the 14th Amendment clause does not apply to the presidency, or that the clause is not self-executing, as possible ways to avoid a complete ruling on the merits of the matter.

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Luttig, who previously said that the 14th Amendment should disqualify Trump, said a ruling on a technicality is not likely if the court reads the clause fairly.

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“If Section 3 doesn’t disqualify the president, then in my view, it would not disqualify any person at all,” he said.

“This case is probably even the most historic constitutional and political case in all of American history,” he continued. “Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is the constitutional safety net for American democracy, and it’s as [if] the framers of Section 3 foresaw Jan. 6, 2021, and they provided in Section 3 that America would never experience another Jan. 6.”

Multiple states have halted proceedings regarding Trump’s ballot eligibility until the Supreme Court rules the Colorado case. The oral arguments Thursday could offer clues into whether certain justices are interested in pursuing such “off-ramps” to a full ruling.

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