A Maine judge on Wednesday put off deciding whether Donald Trump’s name can appear on that state’s primary ballot, saying the Supreme Court needs to rule on the issue first in a similar case out of Colorado.
The ruling sent the case back to Maine’s secretary of state and put it on hold. A nationwide push from Trump’s critics is aiming to prevent the former president from running for office again.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution bars from office those who engaged in insurrection after swearing an oath to uphold the Constitution. The amendment was ratified in 1868, and the clause was initially used to keep former Confederates from returning to power after the Civil War.
Trump’s critics have cited the measure in lawsuits arguing Trump is banned from office because of his behavior before and during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Colorado’s top court last month ruled Trump should be taken off the primary ballot there, and a week later Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) reached the same conclusion.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Colorado case and will hear arguments on Feb. 8. Its ruling on the issue is likely to apply to all states.
Trump separately appealed the Maine case to state court, and Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy on Wednesday ruled the challenge should go back to Bellows in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to take the Colorado case. She ordered Bellows to hold off on issuing a new decision until after the Supreme Court issues its ruling.
“Put simply, the United States Supreme Court’s acceptance of the Colorado case changes everything about the order in which these issues should be decided, and by which court,” Murphy wrote in her decision. “And while it is impossible to know what the Supreme Court will decide, hopefully it will at least clarify what role, if any, state decision-makers, including secretaries of state and state judicial officers, play in adjudicating claims of disqualification brought under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The judge did not weigh in on the merits of the arguments for and against Trump, but she emphasized the need to wait for the Supreme Court to act to “promote consistency and avoid voter confusion in the weeks before the primary election.”
After Bellows issues a decision, the losing side can take the matter back to state court.
Ethan Strimling, a former mayor of Portland, Maine, and one of those who challenged Trump’s ability to run, said he was pleased the court had not invalidated Bellows’s initial findings that Trump is an insurrectionist. Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said that the judge was right to delay a decision and that Trump is confident he will win the challenges to his candidacy.
Trump has maintained that Jan. 6 was not an insurrection and has argued that he did not engage in the attack. He has also contended that Section 3 applies to other offices but not to the presidency.
Legal scholars say a final resolution of the issue is needed quickly now that presidential nominating contests are underway. Iowa held its caucuses on Monday, and New Hampshire will hold its primary next week. Colorado and Maine are among several states to hold their primaries on March 5, which is also known as Super Tuesday.
Courts have allowed Trump’s name to appear on the ballots in Colorado and Maine while he pursues appeals.
The two cases are part of a wave of litigation over the issue around the country. The efforts have been unsuccessful elsewhere, with the top courts in Michigan, Minnesota and Oregon allowing Trump to remain on the ballot. Challenges in Illinois, Massachusetts and other states are pending.
The lawsuits have sparked a countermove from Trump’s supporters, who contend President Biden should not be allowed to run if the decisions against Trump stand. Last week, four voters in Illinois asked the state elections board to prevent Biden from running because they maintain he has given aid to foreign enemies with his border policies.