Maine Court Defers Ruling: Election Official Disqualified Trump Because of 14th Amendment

Maine’s top trial court has postponed a ruling on whether to overturn or uphold the Maine secretary of state’s decision that former President Donald Trump is disqualified from being placed on the 2024 primary ballot under the 14th Amendment’s Section 3, known as the “insurrection clause.”

Kennebec County Superior Court’s Justice Michaela Murphy wrote a 17-page decision Wednesday that she wished to “promote consistency and avoid voter confusion” before the state’s March 5 primary by declining to rule on the “unprecedented issues” already set to be considered in another case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Murphy denied the Trump’s team appeal to Shenna Bellows’, Secretary of State, decision in December as well as his motion to stay the proceedings of the Court but additionally stayed Bellows’ ruling on the pending outcome before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The High Court of the nation said on January 5 that it would consider a similar 14th Amendment challenge to Donald Trump out of Colorado after the top Court in the state ruled the former president was ineligible for their primary ballot under the disqualification clause.

Oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court are set for February 8. 

Murphy ordered Secretary of State Bellows to make a new ruling on Trump’s qualifications within 30 days of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the 14th Amendment challenge out of Colorado. Bellows must then either modify, confirm, or withdraw her previous decision, decided Murphy.

Democrat Bellows ruled on December 28 that Trump was ineligible to be on the state’s 2024 primary ballot because of actions during the protest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and found he violated the 14th Amendment’s Section 3.

Bellows found rioting was carried out “at the behest of, and with the knowledge and support of” Trump. Trump has repeatedly rejected those claims.

Justice’s order upheld challenges from a resident and three politicians

The justice’s order upheld challenges from a resident of the state and three Maine politicians: former state Senators Tom Saviello, former GOP turned independent, and Kim Rosen, a Republican; former mayor of Portland Ethan Strimling; and resident Mary-Anne Royal, who all argued the former president was ineligible for the ballot under Section 3.

“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,” said Strimling in a statement.

Trump has vehemently denied all wrongdoing and rapidly appealed Bellows’ decision — like he appealed the Colorado court’s finding that he engaged in an insurrection on January 6.

Bellows decided to “suspend the effect” of her decision until the courts in Maine ruled on Trump’s appeal. Former President Trump’s legal team then asked the Maine court to hold off on weighing in on Bellows’ ruling until after the case in Colorado was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump’s legal team contended Murphy was a “biased decisionmaker who should have recused herself and otherwise failed to provide lawful due process” and had “no legal authority” to consider the challenge.

The legal maneuvering emphasizes the gravity of the issue before the courts. If Trump’s conduct related to January 6 amid the former president’s efforts to allegedly overturn his 2020 election loss disqualifies him from running for president again.

Trump has faced numerous challenges — many of which have failed despite success in Maine and Colorado — leading to further legal battles.

In last month’s ruling, Bellow said she was “mindful” that no secretary of state had “deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment,” but it with what she claimed was the nature of the former president’s actions.

“I am so mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”