The US Supreme Court will wade into uncharted legal waters on Thursday as it considers if Donald Trump should be barred from running for president.
The justices will consider whether Colorado has the authority to remove Mr. Trump from its ballot due to his involvement in the US Capitol riot.
Their decision will also impact the validity of similar bids to prevent Mr. Trump from appearing on the ballot in other states.
He is widely regarded as the leading contender to secure the Republican party’s nomination.
If the justices do not rule against Mr. Trump, it appears that he will likely challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in November.
This case is of utmost importance and has significant implications, similar to the one that stopped the Florida vote recount in 2000, ultimately resulting in Republican George W. Bush winning the White House over Democrat Al Gore.
The challenge has been fast-tracked by the US Supreme Court, and there is a sense of urgency for a decision before 5 March, when voters in 15 states – including Colorado – cast their ballots in Republican primaries.
The presence of Mr. Trump’s name on the Colorado ballot is currently awaiting a decision from the court. Maine has also decided to exclude Mr. Trump from its ballot, although this decision is currently on hold as the justices deliberate on the matter.
The legal challenge centres around a constitutional amendment from the Civil War era that prohibits individuals who have participated in insurrection or rebellion from holding federal office.
This restriction has never been employed to disqualify a presidential candidate.
In its December ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court acknowledged the significance of its decision.
“We are also aware of our important responsibility to uphold the law, impartially and without being influenced by public opinion regarding the decisions we are obligated to make,” the justices stated.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers contended that the Colorado ruling had unfairly deprived countless voters in Colorado of their rights and could potentially have a similar impact on millions of voters nationwide.
The chief legal officers of 27 states have come forward to support his argument, stating that the Colorado ruling would cause significant disruption.
“It is clear that this situation has created uncertainty during a crucial election period,” expressed the solicitors general. “Furthermore, it disrupts the established responsibilities of the Congress, the States, and the courts.”
Courts in Minnesota and Michigan have rejected similar attempts to exclude Mr. Trump from their ballots, while there are still ongoing cases in Oregon.
The outcome of this case before the US Supreme Court hinges on the interpretation of the 14th Amendment by the majority of the justices, particularly the insurrection clause.
Lawyers representing the former president have presented a number of arguments to the court, outlining why his removal from the ballot should be avoided.
One argument posits that the 14th Amendment does not extend to individuals running for the presidency.
According to some, Mr. Trump’s actions during the US Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, were not considered an insurrection.
The case arrives with a heavy impact before a Supreme Court that is already grappling with historically low levels of public approval.
Regardless of the decision made by the nine justices, which includes three nominees from Mr. Trump, it is expected to cause significant division.
The highest court has a track record of navigating politically sensitive legal matters by focusing on the most specific legal aspects, which may be the situation in this instance.
It is anticipated that Mr. Trump will not be present at Thursday’s hearing.
He is currently dealing with several legal issues. In a recent ruling, he was instructed to pay a staggering $83.3 million ($65 million) as a result of defaming columnist E Jean Carroll, whom he was also found guilty of sexually assaulting in a different incident.
The Supreme Court, with its current conservative majority, may soon be called upon to consider another case involving Mr. Trump.
Earlier this week, a federal appeals court in Washington DC dismissed his claims of presidential immunity, stating that he could face prosecution for allegedly conspiring to overturn the 2020 election.
Mr. Trump must act quickly and seek relief from the Supreme Court before Monday.