California lawmakers push for court to rule on Trump’s eligibility | ET REALITY

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Nine California lawmakers asked the state attorney general in a letter Monday to seek a judicial opinion on whether former President Donald J. Trump should be barred from the Republican primary under the 14th Amendment.

The letter is part of a growing effort in several states to establish whether Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, including his actions before and during the storming of the Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021, disqualify them from the presidency under the amendment. It says anyone who “engages in an insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution after taking an oath to defend it is ineligible to hold office.

“The purpose of this letter is to hastily request the attorney general’s office to seek the court’s opinion on whether or not Donald J. Trump should be removed from the ballot for the presidential primary election scheduled in California on March 5, 2024. ”the letter says. He describes Mr. Trump’s actions, telling Attorney General Rob Bonta: “You are uniquely positioned to proactively seek the court’s opinion to confirm Mr. Trump’s unfitness to hold office given these facts.”

Eight members of the California Assembly (Mike Fong, Mike Gipson, Corey Jackson, Alex Lee, Evan Low, Kevin McCarty, Stephanie Nguyen and Philip Ting) and one member of the California Senate, Josh Becker, signed the letter. All nine are Democrats.

Low, who wrote the letter, said he considered calls for secretaries of state to unilaterally remove Trump from the ballots as politically problematic and possibly undemocratic, and that ordinary lawsuits would not resolve the issue quickly enough. California law requires the secretary of state to announce by Dec. 8 which candidates are eligible to vote.

“For an official to do it himself according to his own interpretation is not politically expedient, nor does it help divide our democracy,” he said, expressing concern about right-wing violence if officials acted unilaterally. “This will naturally be seen as a political effort, but again that is why the court’s opinion will be incredibly important.”

Low said he and other lawmakers were “trying not to make this a political issue but rather a constitutional issue.”

They believe, based on conversations with legal counsel, that Mr. Bonta has the ability to seek declarative relief, essentially asking a court to tell you what your legal obligations are outside of the context of a traditional lawsuit. The letter did not identify any specific court.

A spokeswoman for Mr Bonta said: “We are aware of the letter and will review the request internally. There is no denying that Donald Trump has engaged in behavior that is unacceptable and unbecoming of any leader, much less a president of the United States. Beyond that, we have no additional comment.”

Even if a court were to rule that Trump was ineligible, it would not definitively resolve the issue. Trump or his campaign will almost certainly appeal, and the Supreme Court will most likely have the final say.

The argument has been percolating since the Jan. 6 attack, but gained traction this summer after two conservative law professors, William Baude of the University of Chicago and Michael Stokes Paulsen of the University of St. Thomas, concluded that Trump he was disqualified. Two other prominent scholars, former conservative Justice J. Michael Luttig and liberal law professor Laurence H. Tribe, made the same argument. in the atlantic.

Earlier this month, six Colorado voters filed a lawsuit with the help of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, asking a state court to order the Colorado Secretary of State not to print Trump’s name on the primary ballots there. An obscure Republican presidential candidate, John Anthony Castro, is separately suing with the same goal in New Hampshire, and the liberal group Free Speech for People urged several secretaries of state last month to exclude Trump.

The 14th Amendment was written in the context of Reconstruction, and the disqualification clause (Section 3) was originally used to prevent people who had fought for the Confederacy from holding public office. The modern application of the clause has not been tested in a case as prominent as Trump’s. The outcome will depend on how the courts answer several questions, including what counts as insurrection and even whether the amendment applies to the presidency.

Several constitutional law experts have told the New York Times that they do not feel prepared to weigh in or guess how the justices will rule, describing the issues as complex and novel.

“I think anyone who says there’s an easy answer is probably being a little reductionist in their analysis,” Anthony Michael Kreis, an assistant professor of law at Georgia State University, said in a recent interview.

Shawn Huler contributed with reports.

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