Lawsuit to keep Trump off Colorado ballot will be heard later this fall

Trump Campaigns In Colorado Springs
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
President Donald Trump campaigns in Colorado Springs, Feb. 20, 2020.

Updated 10:21 a.m., September 19, 2023

A lawsuit that seeks to keep former President Donald Trump off the ballot in Colorado next year could go before a judge as soon as October 30th.

The suit, which mirrors similar challenges in other states, argues Trump should be banned under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars any official who has engaged in an insurrection or rebellion against the United States from holding public office. 

“I see my job as, at least in part, getting this to the Colorado Supreme Court, assuming that it proceeds forward,” said Sarah B. Wallace, a District Court Judge for Colorado’s 2nd Judicial district, during a meeting with lawyers for all sides on Monday. She scheduled the case for a five day hearing starting October 30.

In explaining her timeline, Wallace said she wants to be able to issue a written ruling with enough time for the case to be appealed up through the courts. The deadline to certify Colorado’s primary ballot is January 5, 2024.

The plaintiffs in the case, four Colorado Republicans and two unaffiliated voters, are working with the liberal group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on the suit, which was originally filed against the Trump campaign and Secretary of State Jena Griswold. On Monday Judge Wallace allowed the Colorado Republican Party to join the case on the side of the defendants.

That means the Colorado Republican party can file briefs, produce evidence, and challenge the other side in the case and in the trial.

“Please know we are doing everything in our power to ensure Colorado Republican voters can cast their vote for President Trump, or whoever else they choose, on the March 5th, 2024, Super Tuesday Presidential Primary,” wrote GOP state party chair Dave Williams in an email to party members.

The plaintiffs are asking that  Griswold, a Democrat, not place Trump’s name as a presidential candidate on the state’s ballot, arguing that his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and his role in the events leading up to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 should be considered participating in an insurrection. 

On the other side, Trump’s attorney, Republican former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, said he will try to get the case dismissed before the October 30 hearing. Trump has called the effort to keep him off the ballot a trick from the radical left. 

Gessler said he will file both a normal motion to dismiss, as well as “an anti-SLAPP special motion to dismiss because we believe there's very strong First Amendment issues here,” Gessler told the Judge. 

The anti-SLAPP ActSLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation — passed the legislature nearly unanimously two years ago. It allows the target of a defamation or libel suit to ask the case to be thrown out before the lengthy and expensive discovery process begins.