Michigan Court of Claims Judge James Redford on Thursday morning heard arguments on a 14th Amendment challenge to former President Donald Trump’s eligibility to appear on the state’s primary ballot.
He prefaced the first hearing by referring to the recent dismissal of a similar case by the Minnesota Supreme Court, as well as the several amici briefs that helped illuminate the issue. Three case have been brought on the matter, with hearings scheduled throughout the day.
“I fully recognize that I am not the last word on this case,” Judge Redford said, expecting any ruling he makes to be appealed.
The 14th Amendment grants citizenship and equal rights to all persons born or naturalized in the United States. Ratified after the Civil War, it also included a section that prohibited those who had participated in “rebellions” or “insurrections” against the nation from holding office.
Several states have heard or dismissed such challenges already.
Local community advocate Robert Davis filed the petition in September, arguing that President Trump engaged in an “insurrection” on Jan. 6, 2021, and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has an obligation to remove him as a constitutionally ineligible candidate.
Ms. Benson has declined to take a side on President Trump’s eligibility, arguing that Michigan state law does not give office the power to do so. Michigan Attorney General Heather Meingast, arguing for Ms. Benson, said they would defer to the judge’s position.
In Minnesota, Secretary of State Steve Simon had taken the same position, and the plaintiffs suing Mr. Simon in his official capacity had said in the hearing they were willing to put aside the issue and wished to get to trying whether President Trump engaged in an “insurrection.” The state’s supreme court ultimately dismissed the case without prejudice, noting that the issue was not ripe for decision and primaries are a party function. The petitioners are allowed to bring the case forth for the general election ballot.
In Michigan, Mr. Davis is arguing that the state secretary’s office does in fact have the power to remove President Trump from the ballot.
State law includes candidate qualifications, but this is not the case for presidential primaries, Ms. Meingast explained. In a presidential primary, candidates submit an affidavit of identity that states they have met the qualifications for seeking office.
However, making false statements on that affidavit is a misdemeanor punishable by law. Mr. Davis is arguing that this means the secretary of state has the power and duty to investigate the validity of the statements in the affidavits and act accordingly.
Judge Redford said he would not be issuing a decision today, but recognized that the case was on an incredibly tight deadline. Because Friday is a holiday, the state secretary’s office has until Monday 4 p.m. to create the list of party candidates. The state political parties have until 4 p.m. on Tuesday to confirm their lists.
Free Speech for People
Free Speech for People, the left-leaning group that sued in the Minnesota petition, is representing a handful of local voters in the Michigan case.
Attorney Mark Brewer argued that Minnesota’s voting law is “vastly different” from Michigan’s, which gives voters much “broader standing” wherein each and any voter can bring forth these candidate eligibility issues. In some of those past cases, the secretary of state had the jurisdiction to determine eligibility, he added.
Ms. Meingast disagreed, reiterating her position that the secretary of state does not have this power.
“We do not have a vehicle to engage in this analysis,” she said.
She also pointed out that the relief the petition requests has nothing to do with granting the secretary of state this power. It requests that the judge rule President Trump ineligible and prevent him from being listed on the ballot.
Michael Columbo, representing President Trump, made additional legal arguments in both hearings and argued that only Congress has the jurisdiction to make this kind of eligibility determination. The judge pointed out that states have been given the duty to appoint electors who choose the president and vice president.
The last case, brought by President Trump against the secretary of state, will be heard at 2:30 p.m.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
From The Epoch Times