On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to entertain a challenge against former President Donald Trump’s eligibility to be on New Hampshire’s ballots for the 2024 election. The appeal was lodged by John Anthony Castro, a Texas attorney and presidential candidate, who argued that Trump should be disqualified based on a particular interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
Castro alleged that Trump engaged in an insurrection against the federal government during the Capitol breach on January 6, 2021. The United States District Court previously dismissed Castro’s claim for the Southern District of Florida due to lack of constitutional standing. He contended that as a Republican candidate, Trump’s presence on the ballot negatively impacts his ability to secure donations. However, Federal Election Commission records reveal that Castro has not raised any funds while contributing $20 million to his own campaign.
This appeal to the Supreme Court comes amidst efforts by several left-leaning activist groups attempting to prevent Trump from being listed on state ballots, employing arguments akin to Castro’s. For instance, the group Free Speech for People appealed to the secretaries of state in Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wisconsin to exclude Trump from state ballots. Additionally, six voters in Colorado filed a lawsuit in September, seeking to bar Trump based on their interpretation of the 14th Amendment, drafted after the U.S. Civil War.
Nonetheless, even Democratic secretaries of state seem reluctant to disqualify Trump on these grounds. Some legal experts argue that the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause aimed at individuals who supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, not modern-day political candidates. Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state and a Democrat, stated that it is not their role to act as “eligibility police” and that they are only responsible for ensuring basic eligibility criteria are met for ballot listing.
Castro has initiated lawsuits in numerous states, including Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming, with plans to file in Massachusetts, among others.
Trump has not publicly responded to Castro’s allegations. However, a spokesperson for Trump, Steven Cheung, dismissed Castro’s claims, labeling them as an “absurd conspiracy theory” and a political attack with no legal basis.
Retired Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz opined that Trump cannot be disqualified under the 14th Amendment’s Section 3 as it lacks a mechanism for determining a candidate’s disqualification. He emphasized that this provision was historically intended for those who supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, not as a tool for one party to disqualify the other’s leading candidate in future elections.
The Supreme Court’s decision on Castro’s claim marked the commencement of their new nine-month term on October 2. This may not be the last time the court is approached regarding 14th Amendment-related claims against Trump, as similar litigation continues in lower courts.