Democracy defender Free Speech for People said Tuesday that it would "immediately" appeal a Michigan court's refusal to disqualify former U.S. President Donald Trump from office due to his role in fomenting the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection.
Free Speech for People's lawsuit , which was filed in late September, argues that Trump—currently the front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination—is ineligible to hold public office under a constitutional provision known as the insurrectionist disqualification clause.
Enacted after the Civil War, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars from public office anyone who has taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution but then participates in an insurrection or rebellion against the United States. No criminal conviction is required for the clause to apply.
According to Free Speech for People:
The Michigan Court of Claims decision did not address Trump's conduct engaging and leading rebellion and insurrection against the Constitution, including the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Instead, the court relied on Michigan law to avoid a hearing on the merits. Specifically, the court ruled that under Michigan state law, "the ultimate decision" of which presidential candidates may appear on the ballot "is made by the respective political party, with the consent of the listed candidates," and neither the secretary of state nor the court has any role in the state-run primary election if the party chooses to list a candidate who would not qualify for the office.
The court then adopted a discredited theory that claims that only Congress can decide whether a presidential candidate fails to meet constitutional qualifications for office.
"We are disappointed by the trial court's decision, and we're appealing it immediately," Free Speech for People legal director Ron Fein said in a statement. "The Michigan Supreme Court should reverse this badly reasoned lower court decision."
"While our appeal is pending, the trial court's decision isn't binding on any other court, and we continue our current and planned legal actions in other states to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment against Donald Trump."
Similar suits seeking to keep Trump—who is also under federal indictment for his efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden—off the 2024 ballot were filed earlier this year in Minnesota and Colorado . The former was dismissed last week, but as Fein noted at the time, "the Minnesota Supreme Court explicitly recognized that the question of Donald Trump's disqualification for engaging in insurrection against the U.S. Constitution may be resolved at a later stage."
Referring to Tuesday's ruling, Trump called the case and others like it "unconstitutional left-wing fantasies orchestrated by monied allies of the Biden campaign seeking to turn the election over to the courts and deny the American people the right to choose their next president."