By Andrew Goudsward
WASHINGTON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Oral arguments began on Wednesday in Colorado's highest court in a lawsuit by a group of Colorado voters trying to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the state’s ballot next year over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The voters, backed by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, are challenging Trump’s eligibility to return to the presidency under an amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed after the Civil War that bars public officials from holding federal office if they have engaged in “insurrection.”
The Colorado lawsuit has been viewed as a test case for a wider campaign to contest Trump’s 2024 candidacy under the constitutional provision, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
Jason Murray, a lawyer for the voters, told the Colorado Supreme Court that the amendment was the U.S. Constitution's "self-defense mechanism" against people who pose a danger to the government. A lawyer for Trump was to be heard later.
A lower court ruling last month found that then-president Trump engaged in insurrection by inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol in an unsuccessful bid to stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the November 2020 election and obstructing the transfer of power.
But Judge Sarah Wallace allowed Trump to remain on the ballot in the Colorado Republican primary, finding that as president, Trump was not “an officer of the United States” who could be disqualified under the amendment.
Lawyers for the voters argue that the judge’s ruling clashes with the U.S. Constitution and “common sense.”
“It would defy logic to prohibit insurrectionists from holding every federal or state office except for the highest and most powerful in the land,” lawyers for the group wrote in a court filing.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, has asked the state Supreme Court to uphold the ruling allowing Trump on the ballot. His lawyers have disputed the finding that he engaged in insurrection and argued that courts do not have the authority to bar candidates from the ballot under the constitutional provision.
Watchdog groups and anti-Trump advocates have brought lawsuits in several states challenging Trump’s eligibility, though courts have so far rejected all attempts to keep Trump off the ballot.
Trump’s campaign has called the legal challenges an “un-American” attempt to prevent voters from being able to choose their preferred candidate.
The Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)
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