Maine’s highest trial court, the Kennebec County Superior Court, has chosen to defer a decisive ruling on the eligibility of former President Donald Trump to appear on the state’s 2024 primary ballot.
The decision revolves around Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, commonly referred to as the “insurrection clause.”
Justice Michaela Murphy, in a comprehensive 17-page decision released on Wednesday, expressed her intent to maintain consistency and prevent voter confusion by refraining from making a judgment on what she described as “unprecedented issues.” These issues are already slated for consideration in a separate case before the United States Supreme Court.
Murphy rejected an appeal by Trump’s legal team challenging Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ December decision and their motion to halt court proceedings.
However, she also opted to stay Bellows’ ruling temporarily, pending the outcome of the forthcoming Supreme Court deliberations.
The US Supreme Court, on January 5, announced its decision to review a similar 14th Amendment challenge against Trump originating from Colorado.
In that case, the state’s top court had deemed the former president ineligible for their primary ballot under the same disqualification clause. Oral arguments for this case have been scheduled for February 8.
Justice Murphy issued a directive to Secretary Bellows to issue a new ruling on Trump’s qualifications within 30 days of the US Supreme Court’s decision on the Colorado challenge.
Bellows is expected to either affirm, modify, or retract her earlier decision following the Supreme Court’s determination.
Secretary Rules Trump Ineligible
Secretary Bellows, a Democrat, previously ruled on December 28 that Trump was ineligible for Maine’s 2024 primary ballot due to his actions surrounding the Capitol violence on January 6, 2021.
She contended that Trump violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, asserting that the rioting occurred “at the behest of, and with the knowledge and support of” the former president.
Bellows’ decision upheld challenges from various Maine figures, including former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, former state Sens. Kim Rosen (Republican), and Tom Saviello (formerly Republican, now independent), along with resident Mary-Anne Royal. They collectively argued that Trump’s actions rendered him ineligible under Section 3.
Reacting to the recent court decision, Strimling expressed satisfaction, stating, “Ultimately, we’re happy with the Court’s decision to leave the Secretary’s ruling intact: that Trump is an insurrectionist and that the 14th amendment applies. We’ll decide next steps soon.”
In response to the ruling, Trump, who vehemently denies any wrongdoing, promptly appealed Bellows’ decision. His legal team contended that the Secretary of State was biased and failed to provide lawful due process, questioning her legal authority to consider the challenge.
This legal battle underscores the gravity of the central issue before the courts – whether Trump’s conduct related to January 6, 2021, amid efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, disqualifies him from running for president again.
While similar challenges have failed in various jurisdictions, both Colorado and Maine have witnessed successful challenges, leading to an ongoing legal saga.
In her previous ruling, Secretary Bellows acknowledged the unprecedented nature of depriving a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment but justified it based on the unique circumstances surrounding Trump’s actions, emphasizing that “no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”