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Colorado Supreme Court to Trump: You Are Not Above the Law


Trump mug shot
Trump's Georgia mug shot...

Back in November, after a weeklong trial, Colorado Judge Sarah B. Wallace ruled that former President Donald Trump engaged in insurrection during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. At the same time, she declined to remove his name from the state’s primary ballot, claiming that it was unclear whether the 14th Amendment applied to the president.


The Colorado Supreme Court resolved that issue Dec. 20 in a landmark decision that sustained Judge Wallace’s decision, ruling that the 14th Amendment does, indeed, apply to a president. In other worlds, the court said to Trump, "you are not above the law."


While the clause applies to “anyone” and not specifically “the president,” the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision stands for the proposition that no one is above the law. One could argue, in fact, that if the clause applies to “anyone,” it most certainly applies to our leaders, those whom we expect to set the best example for our citizens.


Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution States reads as follows:


No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.


But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Like Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, Section 3 describes activity or circumstance that disqualifies someone from serving as president.


Article 2, Section 1 disqualifies my 14-year-old grandson from service because he’s not 35 years old. Foreign-born citizens like Arnold Schwarzenegger are disqualified. They cannot run for president. Since Judge Wallace factually determined and ruled, after a weeklong trial, that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection, he is, ipso facto, disqualified from being president. 


For the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn this decision, it would have to factually determine that Trump did not engage in insurrection. Since the high court was not the trier of fact, I don’t see how it could do that. If it does, the Supreme Court will further demonstrate that it is now a political vehicle and no longer a court of law and constitutional interpretation.


I will not rehash the litany of facts that led Judge Wallace to decide that Trump participated in or is guilty of inciting an insurrection. We all saw it unfold in real time on our television screens. The facts are laid out in the Court’s well-reasoned, detailed opinion. Read it! It is undeniable that President Trump failed to set that example and acted contrary to his oath of office. 


The state Supreme Court decision balances the issues of freedom of speech and incitement to violence. I’m sure most readers have heard the phrase “You can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre.”


The popular phrase comes from a United States Supreme Court decision. In Schenck v. United States, a 1919 case about the Espionage Act, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. penned the popular phrase to demonstrate that there are, indeed, limits to 1st Amendment free speech.


While the 1st Amendment protects free speech, it does not shield individuals who use their platform to incite insurrection against the very institutions that uphold democracy. Trump crosses the line every day, but in this case, he did so by specifically calling his followers to action, encouraging them to “fight like hell,” which instigated an angry mob to storm the Capitol, perpetrate mayhem, destroy precious artifacts in the people’s building, and literally injure and kill people.


Leadership is not easy. It comes with responsibilities. The leader of the free world is duty-bound to preserve democratic values and institutions. His oath requires him to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” By holding Trump accountable, the court bravely reaffirmed the principle that the rule of law applies to everyone and must prevail, even when applied to the president of the United States and other powerful figures.


Democracy depends on trust and adherence to established norms. The events of January 6th shook this nation to its core and tested our resilience against threats, both foreign and, in this case, domestic. The court’s decision signals that no one is above the law; all individuals, especially a president, are accountable for attempting to subvert our democratic processes.


By setting a clear legal standard, the court provides guidance for addressing similar challenges, hopefully ensuring that the lessons learned from the January 6th fiasco inform judicial decisions for generations to come.


This case is headed for the United States Supreme Court. The Colorado Court’s decision is a testament to the rule of law, the strength of our democracy, and the proposition that no one is above the law.


I recommend a careful reading of this well-reasoned opinion. The court meticulously examined the facts, upheld the rules of law and accountability, and reinforced the principles of our democracy. For this, I offer the Colorado Supreme Court a hearty Mazel Tov!

 


Please check out Mark Bello’s ripped-from-the-headlines legal thrillers, all available online at Amazon and other major online booksellers. He has quite the hero in Attorney Zachary Blake, who fights for justice on all fronts. His books are Betrayal of Faith, Betrayal of Justice, Betrayal in Blue, Betrayal in Black, Betrayal High, Supreme Betrayal, Betrayal at the Border, You Have the Right to Remain Silent and his latest, and his latest, “The Final Steps – A Harbor Springs Cozy Legal Mystery. Also, he’s written a wonderful children’s book about bullying, “Happy Jack, Sad Jack.” For more info, just check markmbello.com.

 

 

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