In a stunning and unprecedented decision, the Colorado Supreme Court removed former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 ballot, ruling that he was not a qualified presidential candidate due to the 14th Amendment’s “sedition ban.”
The verdict was 4-3.
The ruling will be stayed until January 4, pending Trump’s appeal to the US Supreme Court.
The state Supreme Court ruling applies only to Colorado, but the historic ruling could spark the 2024 presidential campaign. Colorado elections officials have said the matter must be resolved by Jan. 5, the legal deadline for the slate of GOP primary candidates scheduled for March 5.
“President Trump is not simply inciting rebellion,” the majority wrote in the unsigned opinion. “While the siege was in full swing at the Capitol, Vice President (Mike) Pence repeatedly supported it by calling on senators to refuse to do their constitutional duty and force them to stop counting electoral votes. These actions constituted open, voluntary and direct participation in the rebellion.
“We conclude that the foregoing evidence established, by an undisputed preponderance of the investigation, that President Trump engaged in sedition,” the opinion added. “President Trump’s direct and overt efforts, over the course of months, to instruct his supporters to march on the Capitol to stop the alleged fraud on the people of this country have been undeniably overt and voluntary.”
Additionally, the court rejected Trump’s free speech claims: “President Trump’s speech on January 6 was not protected by the First Amendment.”
Ratified after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment states that officers who take an oath to uphold the Constitution are barred from future office if they “engage in rebellion.” But the wording is ambiguous, it does not explicitly refer to the presidency, and has been used only twice since 1919.
All seven justices on the Colorado Supreme Court are appointed by Democratic governors. Six of the seven won consecutive statewide retention elections and stayed on the bench. The seventh was only appointed in 2021 and has yet to meet with voters.
The Trump campaign says it will “expeditiously appeal” the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling.
“The Colorado Supreme Court issued a completely erroneous decision tonight, and we will soon appeal to the United States Supreme Court and file a concurrent motion to halt this profoundly undemocratic decision. We have every confidence that the United States Supreme Court will soon rule in our favor and finally put an end to these un-American lawsuits.” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement.
GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramasamy on Tuesday called the decision “a real attack on democracy” and “electioneering.”
“The bipartisan establishment that tried every trick in the book to stop President Trump from running in this election has now resorted to a new tactic to stop him from running again: the 14th Amendment,” Ramasamy said. Published in X.
Ramasamy has vowed to withdraw from the Colorado GOP primary if Trump is not allowed on the ballot.
Trump has denied wrongdoing in connection with January 6, and has dismissed the 14th Amendment lawsuits as an abuse of legal process. He is under federal and state charges — and has pleaded not guilty — in connection with his efforts to rig the 2020 election.
The ruling comes as a similar appeal is pending in Michigan, which Trump also won. He has defeated 14th Amendment challenges in several key states, while challengers have vowed to continue fighting in the courts after the 2024 presidential election if he wins.
The Court made several key findings in its detailed judgment:
• Colorado state law allows voters to challenge Trump’s eligibility under the federal constitution’s “sedition ban.”
• Colorado courts can enforce the ban without any action by Congress.
• The rebel ban applies to the presidency.
• On January 6, 2021, the attack on the US Capitol was a rebellion.
• Trump “involved” in rebellion.
• Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 “inciting a mob” was “not protected by the First Amendment.”
Chief Justice Brian Boatwright, one of three dissenters on the seven-member court, wrote that he believed Colorado’s election law was “not enacted to determine whether a candidate engaged in sedition” and would have rejected Trump’s challenge to his qualifications.
“In the absence of a sedition-related conviction, a claim to disqualify a candidate under section three of the Fourteenth Amendment is not a valid cause of action under Colorado’s election code,” he wrote.
The lawsuit was filed by a group of Republican and Independent Voters in coordination with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a liberal government watchdog group in Washington. A district judge held a week-long trial and issued a stunning ruling in November that labeled Trump a rebel but said the presidency is exempt from the 14th Amendment’s vagueness ban.
The Colorado Supreme Court held oral arguments earlier this month where the justices were split at times. Some of their questions suggested they were open to the idea that the ban would apply to Trump, and at other times, some justices were unsure whether a trial court had the authority to rule on the matter in the first place.
CNN’s Alayna Treene contributed to this report.
This story is breaking and will be updated.