Barrett joins liberal justices on Trump ballot ban ruling going too far

Barrett joins liberal justices on Trump ballot ban ruling going too far

Former President Trump pulled out an unanimous victory at the Supreme Court on Monday in his historic ballot ban case that invoked the 14th Amendment, but a 5-4 division among the justices emerged beneath the surface — joined by one of his own nominees.

Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the court’s three liberals criticized their five conservative colleagues for going further than they needed to in resolving Trump’s case by also determining that the only way for the 14th Amendment to be enforced is through a statute by Congress.

“This suit was brought by Colorado voters under state law in state court. It does not require us to address the complicated question whether federal legislation is the exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced,” Barrett, Trump’s last appointee to the high court, wrote in a concurring opinion.

“The majority’s choice of a different path leaves the remaining Justices with a choice of how to respond,” Barrett continued. “The Court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election. Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up.”

“For present purposes, our differences are far less important than our unanimity: All nine Justices agree on the outcome of this case. That is the message Americans should take home.”

All nine justices sided with Trump on Monday by preserving his status on the ballot, reversing a lower court’s decision that disqualified him in Colorado under the 14th Amendment’s insurrection ban because of his actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

The court’s decision came on the eve of Super Tuesday, when Colorado voters will join more than a dozen other states in casting their primary ballots for president. The court unanimously agreed that a singular state has no unilateral authority to disqualify federal candidates from the ballot.

The other five conservatives — two Trump appointees in Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito — also concluded that Congress has exclusive authority to enforce the provision.

“These are not the only reasons the States lack power to enforce this particular constitutional provision with respect to federal offices,” read the court’s unsigned opinion.

“But they are important ones, and it is the combination of all the reasons set forth in this opinion—not, as some of our colleagues would have it, just one particular rationale—that resolves this case,” it continued. “In our view, each of these reasons is necessary to provide a complete explanation for the judgment the Court unanimously reaches.”

In a six-page concurring opinion, the court’s three liberals said the finding was unnecessary and was designed to insulate Trump and others alleged insurrectionists from disqualification.

“Although we agree that Colorado cannot enforce Section 3, we protest the majority’s effort to use this case to define the limits of federal enforcement of that provision,” wrote Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

They invoked the chief justice’s opinion in the Supreme Court’s recent landmark abortion case, when Roberts criticized his conservative colleagues for going beyond merely upholding the Mississippi abortion restrictions at issue to completely eviscerate Roe v. Wade.

The trio also referenced retired Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent when the court decided Bush v. Gore in 2000, in which Breyer wrote, “[w]hat it does today, the Court should have left undone.”

The liberal justices said Monday they could not join an opinion that “decided momentous and difficult issues unnecessarily,” also saying the conclusions were “inadequately supported” and “gratuitous.”

“By resolving these and other questions, the majority attempts to insulate all alleged insurrectionists from future challenges to their holding federal office,” the trio of justices wrote.

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