Former U.S. President Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, attends a campaign rally at the Atkinson Country Club in New Hampshire on January 16, 2024.

(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Maine Judge Defers on Trump Ballot Decision Until Supreme Court Ruling

"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," said one of the Mainers who sought his removal.

A Maine judge on Wednesday declined to weigh in on former President Donald Trump's challenge to his recent removal from the state's Republican presidential primary ballot, citing the looming U.S. Supreme Court decision in a similar case.

The U.S. Supreme Court—which has a right-wing supermajority that includes three Trump appointees—has agreed to hear a case out of Colorado, whose state Supreme Court last month barred the twice-impeached former president from this year's primary ballot. The justices plan to hear arguments in Trump v. Anderson on February 8.

Colorado and Maine are the only states that have determined the GOP front-runner should be barred from the ballot, but other initiatives are underway elsewhere. The lawsuits and applications to state election officials all rely on the 14th Amendment, which prohibits anyone who took an oath to the U.S. Constitution and then engaged in insurrection from holding office.

In response to petitions from Maine voters, Democratic Secretary of State Shenna Bellows disqualified Trump in December, noting that he, "over the course of several months and culminating on January 6, 2021, used a false narrative of election fraud to inflame his supporters and direct them to the Capitol to prevent certification of the 2020 election and the peaceful transfer of power."

Trump—who on Monday won Iowa's Republican presidential caucuses, despite the 14th Amendment fights and his four ongoing criminal cases—appealed Bellows' decision, which led to Kennebec County Superior Court Judge Michaela Murphy's deferral on Wednesday. Murphy was initially appointed by a Democratic governor and then reappointed by a Republican.

"Maine's primary election is March 5, 2024, and the agreement by all the parties to stay the secretary's decision until Anderson is decided is important," Murphy wrote. "Unless the Supreme Court before that date finds President Trump disqualified to hold the office of president, eligible Maine voters who wish to cast their vote for him in the primary will be able to do so, with the winner being determined by ranked-choice voting."

One of the Mainers behind a petition to remove Trump, Democratic former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, said Wednesday: "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."

Murphy's move followed a similar decision by the Oregon Supreme Court, which last week deferred to the nation's highest court in a 14th Amendment case.

Free Speech for People, the group behind the Oregon case, called that decision "disappointing," adding: "While it is certainly possible that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Trump v. Anderson may resolve some or all of the issues in this case, it is also entirely possible that the U.S. Supreme Court may resolve that case based on particular details of the Colorado proceeding or that it may issue an order that does not resolve this case."

"Furthermore, no one knows when that decision will issue," the group stressed. "Waiting until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its order only compresses the time that the Oregon Supreme Court may have to resolve the issues that may remain if the U.S. Supreme Court does not fully resolve all the issues in this case."

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